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With: Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Vinessa Shaw
Written by: Scott Z. Burns
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality, nudity, violence and language
Running Time: 106
Date: 08/02/2013

Side Effects (2013)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Happy Pills

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After a distinguished, prolific and varied career of twenty-six films, director Steven Soderbergh has announced that Side Effects will be his last.

Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) is depressed. She knows she should be feeling better since her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) has been released from prison, having served a term for insider trading. But she just doesn't. After a suicide attempt, psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) interviews her and decides to put her on antidepressants. He meets with her former doctor, Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), as well. Unfortunately, when he switches Emily to a new drug called "Ablixa," which causes her to sleepwalk, and worse. When something terrible happens during one of her episodes, it begins to look as if Dr. Banks is to blame. Has he been set up, and if so, how can he fight back?

Though the movie contains his unique textures and use of sound, as well as an unusually perceptive human touch, it's not one of his best. It begins with a promising first half, based on characters and ideas. Rooney Mara is touching as the wounded, achingly sad Emily, and the issue of whether and how to medicate her is expertly raised. In an interesting antithesis scene, a Haitian boy who has seen a ghost is, due to his cultural beliefs, not considered sick.

But the film's second half turns entirely to a twisty, surprise-heavy plot that relies on quick shocks to prevent the viewer from digging too deeply into its shaky logic. Without giving anything away, most of it is ludicrous, far-fetched, and even insulting. Still, there's enough good stuff here to give the movie a pass, though it could have been a great deal more.

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