A clever man our Mr Steven Soderbergh, not only does he direct but he also edits most of his work under the name of ‘Mary Ann Bernard’ and is credited as ‘Peter Andrews’ for the cinematography as well. A director, rumoured to be retiring following this latest film, that has produced a varied body of work over the years some of which I’ve not been very keen on, for example 2008’s two part Che, which could have been so much better, the forgettable Haywire (2012) and The Informant (2009) which I found rather dull. But of course he has made some very good films like his debut feature film made in 1989 Sex, Lies, and Videotape, the award winning Erin Brockovich (2000) and Traffic (2000) for which he won an Academy Award for Best Director. Side Effects (2013) certainly swings towards the better side of his oeuvre pendulum.
The film manoeuvres the audience from what at first appears to be an exposé of the high end of the prescription drug market where psychologists can be paid vast sums of money to push certain types of drugs, not always in the interest of their patients, to an intriguing noir influenced psychological thriller.
Our main character is Emily Taylor, played by Rooney Mara who redeems herself after appearing as Lisbeth Salander in the dreadful American remake of Stieg Larssons The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011). Married to Martin (Channing Tatum,) an investment banker, who is just about to be released from a four-year prison sentence for insider trading, Emily is severely depressed after loosing their beautiful house and a considerable fortune. She attempts to commit suicide by driving her car into a concrete wall at speed. In hospital she is assessed by Dr Jonathan Banks (a great performance from Jude Law), who agrees to her release on the proviso that she attends his clinic and start’s on a course of prescription drugs. But when she attempts to kill her self again by jumping in front an underground train he feels something stronger is needed and signs up to trial a new antidepressant drug called Ablixa, which leads his patient even deeper into the dangerous dark depths of despair. This in turn leads to a tragic event which effects not only Emily but also her husband and Dr Banks, consequently drawing into the story Emily’s previous shrink the sinister Dr Victoria Siebert played by the attractive Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Is carrying out a crime different from being guilty of a crime? Just one of the many questions raised by a movie that paints a picture of a sick society in which it is deemed there is a pill to cure any mental disorder: at a cost and not always financial. A very clever story, driven by Scot Z Burns sharp intelligent script originally titled ‘The Bitter Pill’. This absorbing movie is more Henri-George Clouzot than Hitchcock; as most of the critic’s seem too claim see Les diaoliques (1955) If this is Soderbergh’s swan song then he is definitely going out on a high.
‘Pharmaceutical companies spend more money on lobbying than any other industry’ USA Today