Though he may be better known for being the director of Sex,Lies and Videotape, or Ocean’s Eleven and Twelve, I really most enjoy Steven Soderbergh’s real thrillers like Haywire and now Side Effects. Soderbergh makes movies that are far from predictable and have the winsome trait of making you think—- which is more than one can say about most movies these days. While Side Effects is only a svelte one hour and forty six minutes long, it is packed with intrigue, innuendo, and mystery. It also has a superb cast: Katherine Zeta Jones and Jude Law both play shrinks (and please remind me never to become one of those folks) and Rooney Mara is excellent as Emily Taylor, the woman who murdered her husband while apparently being asleep and sleep walking.
The plot twists and turns with the best of films. Once the murder happens, inquiring minds want to know— was it because of the anti-depressant she was on (the imaginary drug Iblixa), was it then the psychiatrist’s fault ultimate, is it the fault of big Pharma? And the questions multiple as the story develops At points one wonders if this will be a morality tale about the unethical actions of big Pharma. It is an interesting coincidence that I was on a plane ride to New Orleans with a lawyer in a big firm who prosecutes big Pharma just prior to seeing this film. He told me tales that would curdle your milk about drug companies willingly keeping drugs on the market that they know produce violent behavior, or strokes, or death etc. I came away depressed and needed some Iblixa after that conversation.
As it turns out however, this is a movie about the devious nature of human nature. Our ability to deceive and to be deceived. Our naivetes and our foibles. Our psychological vulnerabilities and our mercenary natures. It is an excellent study in human depravity, but also in human ingenuity. If you didn’t believe in human depravity before now and the mythological character of the statement ‘we are all basically good people’, this movie should convince you. This film has a brief spurt of violence, and an even briefer glimpse at sex, but it is clearly an adult movie with adult themes and is also too complex and intricate for children. But if you want to test your powers of deduction and see if you can figure out where this film will end before it does, I would recommend it.
WARNING: One of the possible side effects of watching this movie is that you may discover you are no Sherlock Holmes!