Side Effects (2013)

Okay, I get it: drugs are bad!

Emily Hawkins (Rooney Mara), is a beautiful young woman who has a serious addiction to prescription drugs which she uses to deal with anxiety and depression surrounding the pending release of her husband (Channing Tatum) from prison. However, problems start to begin when she soon becomes involved in an affair with the doctor (Jude Law) who subscribed her to the drugs. Moral of the story: never trust a doctor as good-looking as Jude Law. Lesson learned.

Even though I have already stated that there is apparently an affair taking place between the patient and the doctor, rest assured, there isn’t actually any hanky-panky going on. Regardless of what the plot-lines, trailers, and advertisements may be telling you, this is more about the problem that occurs within somebody’s mind and physical state of well-being, when pharmaceutical drugs start to take over. Maybe there is some sex, maybe there isn’t, but the fact that the movie is willing to take the non-Hollywood approach to a relatively conventional story, just goes to show you what type of will and firepower Steven Soderbergh still has to his name.

Instead of making this movie one of those thrillers where a bunch of bad stuff happens, with clear-explanations and more understandings of what is really happening; the movie decides to take the higher-road and make everything more complicated than you’d ever imagine it being. What I liked so much about this movie is how it all started-off obviously, telling the story, giving us characters, and ultimately having us run into the problem that’s going to bring out the bolts and crannies of this movie. And for the longest time, we almost feel like we know where this story is going to end-up, how it will, and what it’s going to say when all is said and done, but no, no, no. Soderbergh doesn’t play by the rules and this movie shows just that.

So happy, so young, so ready to be devoured by a life of drugs and crime.
So happy, so young, so ready to be devoured by a life of non-stop drugs and crime.

Without giving too much away and spoiling all of the fun for you peeps out there, Side Effects goes into places you wouldn’t in the least-bit suspect a medical drama to go towards. It begins as a character-study of depression; then it becomes a medical drama about the negative and positive effects pills can have on a person’s mind; then it becomes a crime thriller; and then, ultimately, turns out to be a mystery/detective-thriller where you feel as if you have all of the clues and hints to make-up a clear understanding of what’s happening, but in reality: you just don’t. In a Soderbergh, nothing is ever quite what it seems to be and that’s not just a cliche, that’s just how he roles.

The combination of these 4 genres, may make the movie seem a bit like it’s too much, for so little, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There is always this feeling that something new and unpredictable is going to come your way and just when you think you know what the big picture is all about, Soderbergh decides to pull the rug, right from underneath your feet and have you guessing more, more, and more, all up until the end where it feels like all of the questions have been answered, and everything is settled. Soderbergh always seems like he has a clear vision of what it is that he wants to do, say, and show-off in any of his stories, and even though the message may be a bit too obvious with where it goes (pills are only made for the doctors to get more moolah), there is still always that shred of memory that you watched this movie, and sat there in total and utter suspense, not having a damn clue where it was going to show-up next. I love that about movies and even better: I love that with my Soderbergh movies.

If there was a problem that I ran into with this movie, it was that the usual, downbeat ending that we are so used to seeing with Soderbergh movies didn’t show-up this time around. In fact, I would probably say that this is his most positive ending in the longest time, probably ever since Ocean’s Eleven. That’s a real shame too, because even though most of Soderbergh’s movies aren’t the happiest-of-go-luckies to watch and spend time with for 2 hours, you still feel like you’re watching a movie from a guy that doesn’t give two shits about having us leave with a happy and clearer view of the world. For the story right here; it does sort of work but when you take into consideration all of Soderbergh’s other movies: it’s a tad disappointing.

However, all problems with the ending aside, this is still a great movie mainly due to the fact that the cast is more than game for the material that writer Scott Z. Burns and Soderbergh are willing to throw at them. This is probably Jude Law’s best role in the longest-time as the psychiatrist that does all that he can do to not only help Emily with her condition, but also make sure to save his money from totally being thrown into the meat-grinder. From the beginning of the movie, I was expecting the movie to make Law’s character seem like a total, money-hungry doctor that didn’t give a single crap about the people he treated or what it was that they were going through; and have it more based on the fact that he’s just about doing his job, doing it the right way, making sure his patients are fine, and hopefully, at the end of the day, making the money go ching-a-ching. It’s a very, very well-written role for Law that shows that the guy still has what it takes to be the center of attention and never have us lose sight of what this character’s motivations are, whether they be good or bad. In this case, it’s all good in the hood of NYC.

Doc needs to take his own advice, by taking some pills and getting some damn sleep.
Doc needs to take his own advice, by swallowing some pills and getting some damn sleep.

Rooney Mara seems to be a very, very fine fit as the total and complete nutcase that is Emily. Mara really nails what it’s like to be so terribly-conflicted with depression, almost to the point of where she can’t handle it anymore. You always feel for this gal and as much as you want to give your heart out to Law’s character for always being there when his patients needed him, you still have to give some pieces out to Emily, for at least trying whatever it is that she can to get over this problem in her head and mind. Mara seems to really have a bright-future ahead of her and it’s a real delight to know that they ended-up dropping Blake Lively for her. Hell, if that chick was in it; it probably would have been a way different movie. And that’s not a good thing, either.

Much like Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones gets to show-off here more than she’s been able to in the past and gives us a glimpse at a lady that you can’t always trust, but yet, you just can’t put your finger on what it is exactly about her that rubs you the wrong way. Zeta-Jones is just able to mess-around not only with the characters in the movie, but our minds as well and it was great to see that played-out with such slickness and charm from Zeta-Jones. Definitely makes me forget about her sleep-walking role that was the Mayor’s wife in Broken City. Well, obviously not too much since I just remembered and mentioned it, but you get my drift. Channing Tatum is also very good as Emily’s, recently-released-from-prison hubby that does whatever he can do to make things between him and his wife, and is here to serve the plot and that’s about it. Not bad or good, just needed to move things along, I guess. Still, it’s good to see the guy working with Soderbergh once again and being able to keep his clothes on for more than 5 minutes.

Consensus: Even if it doesn’t rank-up with Soderbergh’s best, Side Effects is still one hell of a movie that will keep you guessing, on-the-edge-of-your-seat, and fascinated with how much Jude Law can do as an actor, even if his last couple of movies haven’t been able to prove that point.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

CZJ not happy!!
CZJ not happy!!


  1. Glad that you liked this well enough. I am greatly anticipating this one. I love Soderbergh, and this could be the end. I think he has assembled a fantastic cast here, and I am a sucker for thrillers. So it sounds like I should enjoy this pretty thoroughly. Good review, look forward to seeing it!

  2. hell yeah dude! i literally just got back from seeing this. Good to see Catherine Zeta-Jones in a new (???) role here. hahahah. bonus points.

  3. Yeah, I thought this was really quite good. The direction was real slick, the movie was filled with real nice twists that I didn’t see coming, and Jude Law and Rooney Mara give exceptional performances here, though I personally felt that Catherine Zeta-Jones was trying a bit too hard. I really didn’t have any issues with the ending myself, other that the hand-holding flashback near the end that feels out of place and only exists to cater to anybody in the audience too stupid to fit all the pieces together themselves. But other than that, I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Nice review, Dan, glad you liked it as well. 🙂

  4. ah!!!! didnt see this yet. i will tomorrow very excited. and yeah i definitely agree with what u said about stand up guys. i feel they js did it for fun or something. nonetheless, it was still mildly cool. do u go to school or something?’

  5. I actually felt the complete opposite about the direction of this film; I found it incredibly predictable. That said, it moved at a very steady pace that kept my attention even if I knew where it was eventually headed. For me the pacing never allowed a sense of urgency to build up, like I feel should be there in a thriller. Aside from Mara, Law, and Zeta-Jones I thought the other characters were given very little importance or things to work with which was kind of sad. However I did enjoy Thomas Newman’s eerie music and stylistically I think Side Effects represents some of the best elements of Soderbergh’s work as a director. He seemed to borrow slick elements from his previous three movies “Contagion,” “Haywire,” and “Magic Mike.” You’re right that it’s not his finest, but it’s still relatively solid.

    • For me, I was on-the-edge just about the whole time and had no idea where it was going to go. Then again, that’s just my mind and I’m sticking to it!

  6. I loved the feel of the movie Dan. It pulls you in and doesn’t let go. Rooney Mara really was steller. I’ll remember this I bet come best of the year time. Like the new theme layout too. I usually read off my cell so dont see it.

  7. Great review here Dan. Really glad you enjoyed this one so much. And I agree, while not my favorite Soderbergh film, it’s a tense thriller that never fails to give us a good jolt. Besides, who the hell else is making such quality films this early in the year?

  8. Wow. I hadnt known that Blake Lively was in this. LOL. I guess they DID trade up, huh? Good review, Dan, you nailed this one. I think an 8/10 is just about right. I enjoyed it, myself, but it wasn’t anything awesome or anything.

  9. It’s not the drugs you have to watch out for, it’s the hungry people who prescribe them and eat them. LOL! I agree with you on the acting talent — they did good work. 🙂 //mm

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