Side Effects

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Half Reel



Release Date: February 8, 2013
Runtime: 106 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Open Road Films
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Jude Law; Rooney Mara; Catherine Zeta-Jones; Channing Tatum

Instead of going out with a bang, Steven Soderbergh decided to go out with more of a tremble. While his latest, and purportedly last movie, is an entertaining enough social thriller, it is not the big, shiny, mass-market type of movie that has characterized his output in recent years (“Ocean’s Eleven,” “Ocean’s Twelve,” “Ocean’s Thirteen”). While it’s never a bad thing for a director, especially one as talented as Soderbergh, to flex his or her creative muscle and produce an eclectic mix of films, in my opinion, if this is going to be your last movie, why not go out with a grand, splashy piece of entertainment as a send-off?? Critics be damned!

With the exception of Rooney Mara, this is sort of a Soderbergh family reunion among the cast (Jude Law “Contagion”; Catherine Zeta-Jones “Traffic” and “Ocean’s Twelve”, Channing Tatum “Magic Mike” and “Haywire”). There is a comfort level among the actors and their director, which elicits fine performances from all: Mara, especially, is a standout, looking much healthier and sexier here than she did in “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”). But, alas, this is not an “acting” movie; the performances are more in the service of the story.

Emily Taylor (Mara) is suffering from severe depression. Her husband, Martin (Tatum), just got out of prison for an unspecified crime, her job at an ad agency is unfulfilling, and this is just not what she thought her life would be like. Although the couple is trying to get their lives back on track after Martin’s release, Emily feels hopeless and drives her car straight into a cement wall. Ouch!!! Surviving the accident (or there wouldn’t be much of a movie), she is attended to at the hospital by psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Banks (Law). He agrees to take her on as a patient, and soon enough she is all hopped up on anti-depressants. At this point, you’re thinking that maybe this movie will be an indictment of doctors and their potential over-prescription of anti-depressant drugs. However, you’d only be about 20% right.

The story, written by frequent Soderbergh collaborator Scott Z. Burns (“The Informant”; “Contagion”), is a little on the “Oh come on!” side, but is, nonetheless, entertaining enough to sustain the movie’s running time. I wasn’t bored, and it did stir some questions in my mind about doctors and drugs and over-medicating. But this is essentially a high-concept mystery/thriller, the likes of which studios release between Oscar season and summer blockbuster season.

Will we ever see another theatrical feature from Steven Soderbergh? Who knows? I sort of feel like this type of self-imposed retirement reeks of “publicity stunt.” If he does decide to do another swan song, I just hope it’s bigger and better…a slam-bang farewell to a first rate director. Come to think of it, has “Ocean’s Fourteen” been announced?

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