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‘Side Effects’ has all the staples of classic Soderbergh

By: By Frank Miller Special to The News Messenger
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“Side Effects”

Directed by Steven Soderbergh                            

Starring: Jude Law, Rooney Mara and Catherine Zeta-Jones

Rating: Four out of five stars

 

A film that tackles a subject such as depression has the opportunity to be a harrowing experience.

Throwing in a murder mystery and conspiracy as well makes “Side Effects” come off as downright disturbing.

The film is about Emily (Rooney Mara), a woman who struggles with her emotions after her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), is released from jail and tries to rebuild their life together.

After a suicide attempt lands her in the hospital, Emily enters into the care of Dr. Banks (Jude Law), who prescribes a new medication to help treat her gloominess.

However, like the title implies, the drug has some unintended side effects that have deadly consequences.

Caught in the middle of a media firestorm, Dr. Banks must unravel the truth behind the drug’s effect on his patient and the motives of the individuals who are pushing the pills.

The film is anchored by some very solid performances that help gloss over the narrative shortcomings. None shine brighter than Mara, who is absolutely unnerving as an unpredictable and empty husk of woman, barely clinging to her humanity.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh (“Oceans 11,” “Traffic”), the film is supposedly the swan song for his career. If that’s the case, then “Side Effects” is a suitable final feature.

It has all the staples of classic Soderbergh, from the clean and sober camera work to the

carefully-built tension which, at its best, equals the mastery woven by artists such as Alfred Hitchcock.

It’s a small film (sometimes too small) that has a wonky “Scooby-Doo” ending but there’s no denying the genuine sense of dread and fear that Soderbergh is able to wring from such a simple premise.

Competent filmmakers are so hard to come by so it’s sad that we’re losing a great one.

However, if “Side Effects” truly is a career capper, then at least we’ve got one last high note to savor.

 

Frank Miller is a Sacramento writer.