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"SIDE EFFECTS"
(2013) (Jude Law, Rooney Mara) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Dramatic Thriller: A psychiatrist must contend with the fallout of a patient committing a violent act while on medication he prescribed her.
PLOT:
Emily Taylor (ROONEY MARA) is an emotionally troubled young woman with a history of depression. The fact that her husband, Martin (CHANNING TATUM), has been in prison for insider trading hasn't helped matters. Now that he's back out, however, things would seem to looking brighter for them, especially as he attempts to rebuild his business and their former wealth. But she then goes and drives her car into a parking garage wall, an act that leaves her in the emergency room and then under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Banks (JUDE LAW).

He's married to Deidre (VINESSA SHAW) with whom they have a young son, and his business practice with two other partners is going well. Additionally, he's participating in a study for a new anti-depressant medication, and the handsome pay for that helps now that Deidre is unemployed. After consulting with Emily's former psychiatrist, Dr. Erica Siebert (CATHERINE ZETA-JONES), Jonathan takes her advice and puts Emily on a new anti-depressant. Beyond the side effect of her sleepwalking, it seems to be working fine.

That is, until something horrible happens, which leaves her incarcerated and Jonathan's behavior put into question by all of those around him. As his life starts to unravel fairly quickly, he tries to figure out what went wrong and whether there's more to the story than initially meets the eye.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
There's no question that the pharmaceutical industry is a huge, international business. After all, with a growing worldwide population and an ever-increasing number of people getting older each day and thus developing one or more issues that need a remedy, the financial sky pretty much has no limit. Of course, with such money in play and with an expanding number of clients, lawsuits are always a concern.

As a result, you can't purchase any over the counter or especially prescription medication nowadays without being bombarded with a surprisingly large number of potential side effects of using most any of them. I have no idea when that sort of disclaimer inclusion first began, but they're so prevalent now that it's surprising anyone takes anything for fear of what might occur.

Granted, some might not think a "four hour erection" is necessarily a bad thing, but my "favorite" side effect isn't listed in a pharmaceutical ad, but rather an ambulance chaser one. I don't recall the medication in question, but I'll never forget the line of "If you or a loved one has died or been seriously injured as a result of taking..." No disrespect for anyone harmed by that, but the way the commercial is worded makes it sound as if you might be seeing the ad after having died, meaning a very serious side effect not mentioned would appear to be turning into a zombie.

Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) doesn't need to worry about things going bad to that extreme, but the psychiatrist does learn a thing or two about the titular elements in "Side Effects." Having recently tackled a tale about a mass population wipe-out in "Contagion," director Steven Soderbergh now continues down the cautionary trail with this effort that was penned by Scott Z. Burns.

Upon a first glance, it might appear that the dramatic thriller will focus on the doc's newest patient (Rooney Mara), a young woman suffering from clinical depression and who's already been on a bevy of pharmaceuticals. With a new one in play and now in her system, I figured the story would be all about the side effects it has on her, including what could likely be some sort of mental schism.

Instead, it's more about Law's character and the personal and professional side effects on him caused by the side effects of the drugs he prescribes to her. I can't say much more about what happens without giving away too many spoilers, which really makes it difficult discussing and critiquing the film for those who haven't seen it yet.

I am pleased to report, however, that the film repeatedly morphs into something different several times during its nearly two hour course, thus preventing it from growing stale, repetitive and/or predictable. And that's due to the filmmakers leading viewers into a certain quick conclusion before revealing that things might not be as initially believed. Granted, savvy viewers might figure out what's going on before such counter revelations are presented, but most will probably remain intrigued until the truth is revealed before the end credits roll.

It certainly doesn't hurt that Soderbergh and company get decent performances from their cast. I've always liked Jude Law and the aura with which he often permeates his characters, and the one here is believable as the shrink finds his world progressively unraveling in ways he couldn't expect. As that occurs, he switches into detective mode as he tries to figure out what's really happened and who's responsible, and I believe most viewers will be gripped enough to easily go along on his ride.

Having already played a troubled young woman in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," Rooney Mara has little problem making us believe her emotionally traumatized character and her stunned reaction to the surprising side effects of the latest meds given to her. But there's more to her character than meets the eye and she believably segues into that transformation without any lapses in credibility.

Catherine Zeta-Jones appears as another psychiatrist who's only looking out for herself (in more ways than one) and -- considering how things play out -- easily could have been lifted straight from an old Joe "Basic Instinct" Eszterhas plot, while Channing Tatum plays the patient's husband who isn't in the film that much, what with being in prison and such. All end up affected by the side effects in question, although some are more prepared for them than others.

Overall, I liked the film and that it kept changing into something a little different than before and certainly from what I was initially anticipating. I suppose that's a good side effect of the film's plotting, and "Side Effects" is good enough to warrant a rating of 6.5 out of 10.




Reviewed January 22, 2013 / Posted February 8, 2013


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