Side Effects

“I think the hardest part about writing is writing.” – Nora Ephron.

It’s a new year of movies and Oscar predictions are already out for 2014.
Steven Soderbergh’s “Side Effects” didn’t make this particular list but it is definitely a film to watch, perhaps twice.
Soderbergh has billed the thriller as his last film, other than “Behind the Candelabra,” which will air on HBO. Soderbergh unsuccessfully tried to sell the film, about Liberace (Michael Douglas) and his lover Scott Thorson (Matt Damon), to production studios.
I don’t really know why the film didn’t sell in Hollywood, especially with Soderbergh’s solid and diverse library of work, but “Side Effects” is an effective big-screen note to go out on.
The cast includes Soderbergh regulars Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Channing Tatum, the star of two of his more recent films, “Haywire,” and “Magic Mike.”
Rooney Mara is a newcomer for Soderbergh as the female lead, Emily Taylor. Emily is married to Martin (Tatum) who at the beginning of the film is serving the last of his eight-year prison sentence for insider trading.
Martin’s arrest turns the couple’s white-collar lifestyle upside down and starting over causes some serious side effects on many levels.
Emily suffers from anxiety and depression, enough to drive her car into a cement wall at full speed, and is seen by psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) in the hospital.
The trailer for this film drops pretty obvious hints that something even worse than prison or depression happens to Emily and Martin. My only advice is to really pay attention to all the details the first time around and then see the film again once you know what clues to look for.
Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns (who also worked on “Contagion” and “The Informant!”) throw in a lot of twists and turns that change the story from what appears to be a dramatic commentary about the pharmaceutical industry to a straight up “whodunnit” mystery.
Maybe I am just that much of a fan of Soderbergh, but only he can manage to turn out an enjoyable film even if the viewer doesn’t entirely know what is going on from one minute to the next.
I wouldn’t say there are any stand out performances from the actors because, especially in this film, Soderbergh distributes the importance of the characters’ motives pretty evenly.
One potential negative about “Side Effects” is there may be holes in Soderbergh’s plot, but I think I’ll know that better when I see the film again.
The Slate’s Spoiler Specials podcast was also helpful to listen to for some insight into the story.
It would calm my nerves the most if Soderbergh really wasn’t retiring from directing films.
He’s had such a consistently solid career and, while Channing Tatum has many films in the works, who is going to direct “Magic Mike 2?”
I am always skeptical about sequels but Soderbergh’s ability to work with regular stars over and over makes him the man to tell us ladies what is going to happen next for Mike.
Or maybe Tatum is the new Soderbergh?


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