Movie review: Side Effects will have you thinking

By Gary Wolcott, atomictown.comFebruary 8, 2013 

Rooney Mara is Emily. She's depressed. Channing Tatum is her husband Martin. He just got out of jail for insider trading. Emily is depressed. She tries to kill herself by ramming her car into a wall.

While in the hospital, she meets Dr. Jonathan Banks. He's done by Jude Law. Dr. Banks is a psychologist working extra hours because his wife can't find work and they're living over their heads. To augment his salary, he participates in pharmaceutical drug testing programs. He consults with Emily's former psychiatrist, Catherine Zeta-Jones' Dr. Victoria Siebert, who says she's been depressed for years and has used a number of drugs to overcome the problem.

To help Emily, Banks puts her on a new test drug. The drug has an unfortunate side effect: murder.

From the slow and wonderfully done opening scene to the stark ending, director Steven Soderbergh patiently tells Scott Z. Burns' (Contagion) unique and very original story. Few American filmmakers are better storytellers than Soderbergh. He patiently and quietly takes two totally different themes and marries them into a layered, complex movie.

As they cleverly drop clues that solve the mystery, Soderbergh and Burns explore an interesting American phenomenon. We are addicted to mood-enhancing drugs. Much attention is paid to the problems that make the need for them arise, but little information is given about the side effects of the overuse of personality-suppressing drugs.

The acting is mind-boggling, but it's expected from a cast this good. The real star of Side Effects is Soderbergh, who gets the mind working overtime with the drug debate and then ups the ante with a superb mystery that completely changes the tone and texture of the movie.

Side Effects

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Stars: Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones

Mr. Movie rating: 4 1/2 stars

Rated R for mature themes, brief nudity and language. It is playing at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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