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SIDE EFFECTS (director: Steven Soderbergh; screenwriter: Scott Z. Burns; cinematographer: Steven Soderbergh; editor: Mary Ann Bernard; music: Thomas Newman; cast: Jude Law (Dr. Jonathan Banks), Rooney Mara (Emily Taylor), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Dr. Victoria Siebert), Channing Tatum (Martin Taylor), Vinessa Shaw (Dierdre Banks), Mitchell Mitchell Michaliszyn (Ezra Banks), Michael Nathanson (Assistant District Attorney), Ann Dowd (Martin’s mother), Polly Draper (Emily’s ad agency boss), Laila Robins (Banks partner), Peter Friedman (Banks partner), Haraldo Alvarez (Garage Attendant), Victor Cruz (Officer Beahan); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura/Gregory Jacob/ Scott Z. Burns; Open Road Films; 2013)
It’s a film tailor-made for this cynical pill popping age.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Veteran director Steven Soderbergh(“Magic Mike”/”Haywire”/”Kafka”) says this psychological thriller will be his last picture. He re-teams with Contagion and Informant writer Scott Z. Burns for this gripping but somber mainstream pic, which reminds one of a great Hitchcock thriller. It’s a twisty, enigmatic and well-crafted topical pic, that intelligently lumps together a murder story, a study on clinical depression, a look at the dubious practices of drug companies, psychiatric malpractice and insider trading fraud. It’s a film tailor-made for this cynical pill popping age, that clearly shows modern medicine comes with side effects.

After a blood-stained Manhattan apartment is shown, a flashback takes us to three-months earlier. The thirty-something nice guy Martin Taylor (Channing Tatum) is released from a four-year prison sentence for involvement in an insider-trading scheme, and is welcomed home by his concerned mother (Ann Dowd) and harried 20ish graphic designer wife Emily (Rooney Mara). Emily is distraught by her change of lifestyle, as she’s suffering from severe depression. What bothers Emily most is relocating from her Greenwich, Connecticut mansion to her modest Manhattan apartment.When Emily purposely smashes her car into the wall of her building’s underground garage, she’s assigned by the court to workaholic psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law). Instead of following usual protocol and hospitalizing her, Banks identifies with the fragile woman’s vulnerability and puts her on scheduled office visits and prescribes antidepressant drugs such as Prozac and Zoloft. Meanwhile hubby is motivated to make big money again by using the contacts of a big-time hedge fund operator who served time with him for income tax invasion and will shortly partner with him when released, as Martin has a good deal set-up that involves them soon moving to Houston.

When Banks wants to learn more about his patient, he contacts her former shrink from Connecticut, Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who suggests the use of a new drug on the market called Ablixa–a company she’s associated with. The Englishman Banks, living a rich lifestyle with the unemployed businesswoman divorced beauty Dierdre (Vinessa Shaw) and her elite private school attending son Ezra (Mitchell Michaliszyn), needs money and by moonlighting gets a nice salary from Ablixa to push their product. Banks’ main gig is as a partner in a psychiatric firm with two others (Laila Robins & Peter Friedman), who share his need to get rich from their practice.

The new drug, heavily advertised on TV as a cure-all, causes Emily suicidal tendencies and later she commits a heinous act, right out of Psycho, when sleepwalking, which is another recognized side effect from Ablixa, and can’t remember the bloody incident. Banks’ life is shattered because he ends up blamed for mistreatment, is fired by Ablixa, dumped by his feckless shrink partners, Deirdre walks out on him and the assistant DA (Michael Nathanson) looks at him with disdain for lack of cooperation. Perceiving himself as a victim, Banks fights back and tries to unravel what exactly is going on in the mind of his not so forthcoming patient and her crafty former shrink.

It’s great on the details of how the path to big money can transpire between Big Pharmaceutical companies and Wall St., leading to greed, perceived as the untreatable mental sickness that can bring down a country. The drug companies buy off the medical people to push their pills and induce patients with free drugs and Wall St. traders encourage investors to wheel and deal in investments that might not be all that legal. Soderbergh leaves no prisoners in this gloomy but perceptive pic about those who talk shop over a fine meal at Le Cirque, who might or might not be mentally sick, and those who are deemed by the courts mentally ill who inhabit the darkly lit world of high-security mental institutions.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”