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Written by Scott Z. Burns
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Starring Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherince Zeta-Jones and Channing Tatum

Emily Taylor: I don’t think you should be my doctor anymore.

Steven Soderbergh has never been very happy with the Hollywood filmmaking system and has been threatening his retirement from the medium for what seems like years now. Each theatrical release was supposed to be his last but then another project would pop up before too long and it seemed as though the cycle might never be broken. Well, the moment has supposedly finally arrived, after directing more than 20 movies, with the arrival of his latest, SIDE EFFECTS. Soderbergh may misfire from time to time but when he gets it right, he creates some of the most innovative and insightful films to come out of Hollywood. I am a fan and it saddens me to say that his last theatrical effort isn’t that great. It saddens me even more to say that it isn’t even that good really.

So apparently, drugs are bad. This is the revelation that SIDE EFFECTS opens with. After her perfect husband (Channing Tatum) proved himself to be very much less than perfect by getting himself arrested and sent to jail for insider trading, Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) fell into a bit of a depression, understandably. When her husband is released four years later, her mood sinks again, somewhat less understandably. She starts to see a therapist (Jude Law) and gets bounced around from drug to drug until she finds the perfect fit. And so we go on for a while thinking this is the premise. Why is this girl on the verge of having her life back so miserable? (And trust me, Mara knows how to be painfully miserable.) Then Soderbergh shocks the audience and switches gears half way through. Suddenly, SIDE EFFECTS is an intense thriller, or at least it tries very hard to be. I’m all for zigging when the audience expects you to zag (PSYCHO, anyone?), but the destination needs to be worth the detour.


Screenwriter, Scott Z. Burns, a frequent Soderbergh collaborator, completely misses the mark with SIDE EFFECTS. Firstly, the whole prescription drug angle is a tired hook. Obviously, tales of depression and woe continue to this day, but focusing on the potentially tragic consequences that come with taking them, and subsequently debating the legal ramifications of these consequences, is not thrilling in the least. And both Burns and Soderbergh know it too. As the plot plodders on, they thicken it thinking the effect will be bewilderment and fascination, but all it really does is expose how thin the whole thing was to begin with. If there was a little pill to make me forget watching SIDE EFFECTS, I would take it without hesitation, regardless of any side effects it might have on me. At least this way, in my mind, MAGIC MIKE would still be Soderbergh’s last picture.

2 sheep

Your turn!

How many sheep would you give Side Effects?



  1. Hmmm, clearly you were not a fan of this movie. I rather thought it was Soderbergh at his best. I’m not entirely sure, but I really don’t think there have been many feature films focused on prescription drugs.

    They clearly are a major issue and I think debating who is actually responsible if unexpected “side effects” occur to be fascinating. The shift towards the final act was great for me because it was unexpected. Maybe, you’re right in that it may have been shoehorned in to make it more interesting but somehow I don’t completely agree.

    You see, if you really think about it the director methodically set up the final act from the very beginning. I would even go as far to say that it was masterfully executed. While I haven’t seen Magic Mike, I feel like this is a much more suitable final film (yeah right) for Soderbergh.

    Btw, what did you think about the movie Contagion vs. Side Effects? They are both similar on their face, but I strongly disliked the former and as you can tell really enjoyed the latter.

  2. As I understand it, I am in the minority on this film. I’m a big Soderbergh fan and I just felt this was so clunky and laborious to get through. I felt as though every set up he was laying down was so obvious and that by the end of it, they were just throwing more obstacles into the mix to make it more compelling.

    I agree that there aren’t too many films that tackle the topic of prescription drugs but I have seen the issue dealt with on television. Perhaps that is why this felt too slight for a theatrical film for me.

    I much preferred Contagion over Side Effects. It wasn’t anything special but I think it met its goals much better.

    And yes, yeah right, Mr. Soderbergh. We’ll see you again before we know it.

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