I'll admit it: "Side Effects" had me buffaloed. Nearing the midway point of the film, I was ready to walk out. I was fidgeting in my seat, nit-picking the way the soundtrack was lurking ominously in the background for no apparent reason, and in general finding the movie one giant, boring misfire. Director Steven Soderbergh had led me down the primrose path, which is exactly where he wanted me to go. Nearing the apex of my disdain, there were scenes that felt amateurish, clumsy and yet now I have to wonder. Were they really, or was I, the viewer, just being set up?
Rooney Mara stars Emily, a woman with serious issues. After serving four-and-a-half years for insider trading, her husband (Channing Tatum) is finally released from prison, an event sure to make any woman happy and yet, why is she still so sad? After an apparent suicide attempt, she's released in the care of Dr. Banks (Jude Law), a psychiatrist with a trigger happy prescription pad. He begins prescribing various pills to help with her depression and at first the mixture seems to be helping, but she's soon having strange blackouts and walking in her sleep. I will elaborate no further on the plot so as to avoid spoiling things (but if you were worried about spoilers, you certainly wouldn't be reading anything on the internet, but I digress).
Is Side Effects an indictment of the pharmaceutical industry or is it about paranoia and justice? I think it's justice. The film asks questions of ethics and morality and wonders which shade of grey we'll side with. A film like this, with it's momentous shift in tone (like some neo/meta noir) and superb performances doesn't come along very often. Films like these are the reason I go to the movies, I want the filmmakers to turn my head and veer off the well-worn path. Television ads hype Side Effects as one of the best movies of the year (a year that's only 2 months old, by the way). Time I think, will prove them right.