There is a scene towards the end of Side Effects of such powerful sensuality that I regret not being able to describe further, for revealing too much about where the film is heading, nevertheless, it has enough twists and turns to make even the most eagle-eyed viewer question what they have seen.
Steven Soderburgh has claimed this as his last film, effectively retiring from making films. Whilst his career has been up and down, from lacklustre (Haywire) under-appreciated (The Informant) and experimental (The Girlfriend Experience), Side Effects beats them all in having a great plot and cast. It says interesting things about Pharmaceutical companies and how they get us taking their pills like so many pieces of candy, and how difficult it is to know what somebody is thinking, even as to whether or not depression exists beyond the feeling of sadness at a period of grief or crisis.
Hollywood rebel Rooney Mara
In Side Effects (how succinct that title is) Emily (Rooney Mara) is in meltdown after her husband goes to jail through insider trading, apparently suicidal, she drives her car into a brick wall (this happens three months before her imprisonment) and goes to a pysch ward. There she is treated by Jude Law’s kindly doctor Martin. He gives her SSRIs, to maintain her serotonin levels to normal. When they are inefective he puts her on Albixia, an untested drug whose website is full of dubious reviews heralding its virtues. She goes from morose to perking up big time, shopping for sexy underwear, mounting her husband like a dog in heat. ‘Whoever invented this drug is going to be very rich’ says Martin.
But the drug has some unfortunate side effects, including murder. Emily is on trial, whilst Martin finds himself with a civil case of his own. I won’t say any more about the plot. Jude Law is brilliant as the doctor, able to proscribe beta blockers for his wife but not able to give himself the treatment he needs. Rooney Mara is sensational, reacting instead of acting, always doing something interesting. She is at the moment the most intelligent actress in American cinema, a rebel who plays by her own rules. And Catherine Zeta Jones is powerful stuff too, a ‘don’t fuck with me’ consultant with problems of her own.
Admittedly the film does have a powerful side effect on the viewer: you won’t be able to get it out of your mind.