“Warning: May Cause Murder” — this is the warning label that should have been on the container of the new antidepressant drug “Ablixa” in Steven Soderbergh’s latest movie, “Side Effects.”
“Side Effects” tells the story of Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), a psychiatrist who is assigned to help a young woman named Emily (Rooney Mara) after she attempted suicide.
Emily’s husband Martin (Channing Tatum) has just returned from a prison sentence for insider trading, and Emily clearly has trouble dealing with the change.
When Emily’s previous psychiatrist Victoria (Catherine Zeta-Jones) tells Banks that Emily should go on the new antidepressant “Ablixa,” the stage is set for disaster.
Soderbergh assembled a great cast for this movie, which is absolutely essential for a film that demands so much of the audience.
There are numerous twists and turns, clues that seem obvious in hindsight and tons of details that require a sharp eye to catch.
And the A-list cast definitely keeps you hooked.
Rooney Mara’s incredible ascent into stardom after her bit part in 2010’s “The Social Network” is once again confirmed. She brings the necessary vulnerability to Emily as a patient – and some serious grit for her second big part.
Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones also deftly play their roles, creating some powerful chemistry between the three.
Soderbergh captures all of this with an incredible eye for detail in every shot he takes.
Each shot seems deliberate and thoughtful, carefully planned out for maximum effect, and with little concession to the showy sequences so beloved by big-studio directors.
This is interesting, given that Soderbergh is widely known for his commercially-minded movies with huge budgets and even bigger stars.
But he has also made more than a few art-house films in his career, with experimental techniques and a next-to-nothing budget.
Think about the contrast between his debut, “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” which was made for only $1.2 million, and “Ocean’s Eleven,” which had an $85 million dollar budget.
Indeed, “Side Effects” feels much like Soderbergh’s previous movie “Magic Mike” – an art-house film masquerading as a blockbuster.
They have a similar aesthetic and style, which is not surprising considering Soderbergh served as the cinematographer and editor for both (under his usual pseudonyms Peter Andrews and Mary Ann Bernard).
The major difference between the two is the excellent work of the screenwriter for “Side Effects,” Scott Z. Burns.
“Side Effects” is a much tighter film, with a clearer sequence of cause and effect, and a more satisfying ending.
Without such a strong script, the intricate plot could have easily become muddled under the weight of its own complexities.
Instead, the film emerges as a coherent work that gives just enough information away to keep the audience in the loop while maintaining the suspense and mystery that makes it so entertaining.
Coming Out on Thursday, February 14:
“Beautiful Creatures:” Lena Duchannes arrives in a small town in the Deep South and immediately catches the attention of Ethan Wate. Their budding romance is threatened by Lena’s identity as a “caster,” a supernatural being with incredible powers.
Starring: Alice Englert, Alden Ehrenreich, Jeremy Irons, Emmy Rossum
“A Good Day to Die Hard:” John McClane tracks down his estranged son Jack to Moscow, Russia. The two quickly become embroiled in a plot to protect a Russian government whistle-blower.
Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney
“Safe Haven:” Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, a young woman with a mysterious past arrives in a small North Carolina town. There she struggles to lead a quiet life and find love again, only to have her past catch up with her.
Starring: Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel