Side Effects
dir Steven Soderbergh
scr Scott Z Burns
prd Scott Z Burns, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Gregory Jacobs
with Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum, Vinessa Shaw, Ann Dowd, Polly Draper, Mamie Gummer, Michael Nathanson, Laila Robins, Peter Friedman, Russell G Jones
release US 15.Feb.13, UK 8.Mar.13
13/US Endgame 1h46
Side Effects
The drugs don't work: Mara and Tatum

law zeta-jones shaw
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Side Effects Morphing from a pharmaceutical industry expose into a darkly twisty mystery and finally a camp thriller, this film gives Soderbergh a chance to show off his filmmaking skills. And not just because he also shot and edited the movie. Even if it's rather nutty, this is shamelessly gripping.

After her husband Martin (Tatum) is released from a four-year prison term for insider trading, Emily (Mara) struggles with deep depression, ending up in the care of Dr Banks (Law). After consulting her previous doctor (Zeta-Jones), he prescribes a series of psychotropic drugs, switching drugs and doses until the side effects seem to even out. But something clearly isn't right with Emily. After a fatal drug-induced incident leads to a criminal trial, Banks starts his own investigation. Which jeopardises his practice and his marriage to Dierdre (Shaw).

It's almost as if Soderbergh and Burns realised that there was nothing more to say about the evils of Big Pharma, so how about throwing in some murderous lesbians? The film has a sleek, purring tone that's irresistible, thanks to expert cinematography and editing, plus a seductive Thomas Newman score. Law holds things together as a man too-obsessed with unearthing the truth so he can get his old life back. Zeta-Jones is marvellously sneering as a character who seems incidental until about halfway in.

And in the demanding pivotal role, Mara sharply depicts the way Emily's sense of reality seems to continually shift and collapse around her. But then that's how the film itself is structured. Burns' script might not be very deep, and the plot doesn't quite hold water, but any niggles fade away as we are propelled through a narrative that spins a series of potentially cliched sequences into something fresh and enjoyably deranged.

Soderbergh holds all of this together brilliantly, never trying to make the film anything more than the sleazy thriller that it ultimately turns out to be. And by starting out with something hugely topical, with constant points throughout about the dangers of America's perilous prescription drug system, the movie harks back to those slick, entertaining thrillers of the 1980s and 1990s, when the premise and characters sent a chill down our spine even before anything nasty happened.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 20.Feb.13

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