Side Effects (2013) (R)

If you have ever seen the ads on television for drugs and anti-depressants you will recognize the list of side effects. They may include things like nausea and range from minor symptoms up to sudden death. Ask your doctor if “Side Effects” is right for you.
From the beginning of the movie it’s impossible to decide what kind of film “Side Effects” is going to be. It’s not a movie entirely driven by plot, though it could be that; and it’s also not a film devoted just to characters, though it could have been as well. There is no reveal about humanity that is made possible to show by the twisty and windy plot. The plot is written very cleverly into the script so the viewer doesn’t feel like they’re being shoved around. It’s a passive script that wants to be explosive. 
The actors here are all very good with maybe the exception of Channing Tatum. It seems like he was just hired to draw a certain crowd out to the movie and it actually didn’t work out the way they thought it would. The thing that is actually off putting about Martin and Emily Taylor, Channing Tatum and Rooney Mara respectively, is their size difference. Rooney, who had just come off playing Lisbeth Salander from “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is such a fierce tiny actress. Tatum, on the other hand, is mammoth in comparison to Mara and tries to be gentle. It doesn’t exactly work.
Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones play psychiatrists who are trying to help people in need (as psychiatrists usually do). They seem completely selfless and humble which comes across genuine and not phony. The scenes between them, which are fairly uncommon in the movie, are the best. Zeta-Jones, in particular is amazing.
Emily Taylor needs help, she’s been fine for a while but her circumstances are building up around her and she feels like she’s drowning. When you see how her life has been and what she’s had to deal with, it’s understandable.
At the beginning of the film, I got the sense that it was trying to recreate “American Beauty” minus Kevin Spacey’s narration. We start looking on a street and then we zoom in to see more clearly what has happened. The events transpire and then, like “Beauty”, we are panned back out of our characters lives. The difference between the films is in the sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that you can get from “Beauty” and the lack thereof from “Side Effects”.
The movie is extremely well done with shallow focus on specific objects or people for most of the film. I feel that if it was a little more exciting and more composed, this film could have been sensational. It’s hard to make original ideas that will intrigue a large audience and pacify the critics and “Side Effects” makes a good stab at it. Steven Soderbergh seems to drag his casts from previous movie back into this one. And the cast is excellent, I wish that the same could be said for the movie itself.

Score: 3 out of 4 stars


  1. The cast was superb. The plot was a flat line- I mean that flat line was up high and kept you watching and thinking- but there was never a moment where it felt complete.