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Side Effects tells the story of Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara). Emily’s life used to be perfect. She had the perfect man, the perfect house, and enough money to have whatever she wanted. Her world crumbled when her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) is arrested for insider trading. Four years later Martin is being released from prison and she begins having recurring issues with depression and anxiety attempting to deal with his return home. She begins taking anti-depressants, but the search for one that works isn’t easy. Finally finding something that solves the majority of her issues, Emily feels like her life is back on track, but the drugs have devastating side effects.

In Side Effects, Steven Soderberg’s stylistic schizophrenia has manifested in a fairly fractured film. The front half of the film is an indictment of the American pharmaceutical industry and the way doctor’s get involved to make extra cash, despite what it might do to their patients. The back half of the film is a taught thriller about a man trying to unravel a conspiracy that will ultimately allow him to get his life back.

While the former was interesting (although many documentaries have made the point considerably better), the back half of the film cheapens the message and leaves the viewer asking, “what did I just watch?”

As always with Soderbergh, the film was put together beautifully (and the trailer is incredibly misleading ““ it’s not all fevered dreams and fractured reality) and the talent was excellent. Despite Rooney Mara’s lackluster role, she brings the character to life beautifully and develops her inner complexity with style.

Jude Law was tailor made for this kind of role and Catherine Zeta-Jones makes a lot out of a small, but pivotal character.

Side Effects is interesting and if you’re a Soderbergh fan (or apologist) you will probably enjoy the film for a variety of reasons. The rest of us, however, will just be confused about how these two barely related films became mashed together.

Is Side Effects opening weekend worthy?

As noted above, if you’re a Soderbergh fan, you’ll want to see this. For the rest of us, the film is not a bad thriller if you go in understanding that it needed 25 minutes gutted out of the middle and are willing to stick with a slightly crazy and meandering story. There are a lot worse films you could spend your money on this weekend.

More about Side Effects

Side Effects trailer