I have a very love-hate relationship with Stephen Soderbergh. He made my least favorite film of all time, Bubble, and my least favorite film I shut off halfway through, The Girlfriend Experience (which also ‘legitimized’ Sasha Grey’s career), but he also made the Ocean’s trilogy and Magic Mike, which I’ve loved. As such, any time I walk into a Soderbergh film, I feel like I’m playing cinematic Russian roulette. Will [insert film here] be good, or will I blow my brains out?
Last night, I saw Side Effects, Soderbergh’s supposed second-to-last film. In keeping with the whole mystery tone of the film, you’ll have to read on to discover whether or not it made me want to shoot myself in the head.
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Director: Stephen Soderbergh
Release Date: February 8, 2013
Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) is having a heck of a time. Her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) just got out of jail after for years for insider trading and she has been suffering horrible anxiety. After driving her car into a wall, she ends up in the care of Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), who prescribes her with a new medicine to help treat her. Things seem to look up until Emily murders somebody in her apartment. Suddenly, Dr. Banks finds himself under the microscope as his life crumbles around him. He becomes obsessed with solving the mystery that has presented itself, despite literally everyone else in his life telling him to let it go, and nearly loses everything in his quest for the truth.
The core cast of Mara and Law (Tatum is, sadly, a minor character comparably) is rounded out by Catherine Zeta-Jones as Dr. Victoria Siebert, Emily’s previous doctor. All these actors turn out great performances and I daresay that Jude Law turns in the performance of a lifetime. There are lots of minor characters that Banks interacts with during his journey down the rabbit hole and all of them were great, but with the exception of Russel G. Jones, who was my favorite one-off character, nobody really deserves special mention. In the end, I have no complaints. Also, fans of Breaking Bad might recognize one particular character, but I’ll leave that a surprise for you guys.
The first half of the film really serves as a prologue for the latter half, and in that second half things get really nutty. Banks is put through the ringer, but he does not give up, nobody how many people tell him to. He loses everything and still persists in getting to the bottom of it. I was glued to my seat as the movie moved on to its total mind-screw of a conclusion.
I don’t always take note of a film’s soundtrack, but Thomas Newman’s score was one of the best parts of the film. Almost completely absent at times, the score is atmospheric and unobtrusive, and I was in love. The soundtrack, while available now on iTunes, doesn’t come out in other venues until March 5th, and it’s going to be a long February for me.
Its hard to talk about the movie without giving away key plot points, and its so full of twists and turns that I’d rather cut it short than give anything away. I genuinely want you guys to be surprised. Just take my word for it: your mind will be blown. It’s sexy, well-crafted, and the central actors all brought their A-game. Soderbergh may have made my least favorite movie of all time, but with Side Effects, he has cemented a place on my Top 10 of 2013.
Well done, Soderbergh. Have an Editor’s Choice.