Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Film Review: Side Effects (2013)

Side Effects (Review)
United States/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...even it's climax feels like a jab from an average kindergarten student."

Shortly after her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), is released from prison, Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) drives her car into a concrete wall in an attempt to commit suicide...

Side Effects continues to follow Emily after the accident as she begins to cope with depression through her psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), who prescribes a series of antidepressants with little effect. Eventually, after contacting Emily's previous psychiatrist, Victoria Sebirt (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Jonathan places Emily on a new drug called Ablixa. Unfortunately, the effects of the drug cause Emily to commit murder, and Jonathan's life is flipped upside-down. The first half of the film had promise of being a deep commentary on the use of prescription drugs and their potential side effects -- emphasis on promise and potential. The second half of the film becomes a more straightforward thriller where the less you know becomes more effective. The ending of the film is good, but it lacked impact, like the rest of the film.

Side Effects is a psychological thriller. The less you know, the better. The problem with side effects is that it always comes up shorthanded -- it never really reaches it full potential. The first half of the film has a focus on the prescription and use of drugs, and their respective side effects. The second half of the film becomes a thriller surrounding a certain conspiracy and web of lies. Although both halves are well made, both halves tend to lack effectiveness. The film really doesn't have any punches -- even it's climax feels like a jab from an average kindergarten student. It had me interested, and I wanted to see what direction it was going, but the destination always turned out to be just decent. Don't expect a full look into the world of prescription drugs, and don't expect a fully fledged thriller, either. Also, the first half is good for what it is, but be warned: it moves at a slow pace. The second half is also good and picks up the pace, but... well, you know, everything I said in this paragraph.

Rooney Mara is mediocre. Rooney Mara isn't bad per se, she can read her lines and deliver with some realism, I won't exaggerate and act like she's the worst. But, she has absolutely zero screen presence or charisma -- she just seems boring and bland throughout her entire performance -- and it's just detrimental to the experience. In fact, the entire time she was on screen, I thought: Kate Mara would've been so much better for this role. It says a lot when Channing Tatum delivers a more tolerable and interesting performance considering he's usually better at comic roles. Regardless of Rooney Mara's lead status, Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones really steal the show with fantastic in-character roles. The rest of the technicalities, like the music and such, are really standard -- nothing bad or exemplary. Steven Soderbergh's direction seemed to be lacking this time around; the package is neat and interesting, but the lack of impact is disappointing.

Overall, Side Effects is a good film; it's technically well made, the story had me hooked, there are some great scenes, and Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones are great. It's premise is interesting, but it fails to capitalize on its ideas. Furthermore, there is no shock or "wow" factor, despite how hard it really wants to, and Rooney Mara is a "poisonous fog bank" for the film. (<< you'll get that if you've seen the film.) A mishmash of great and terrible, Side Effects is simply good.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood, some sex and nudity.

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