March 8, 2013


The trailer for the new crime-thriller, “Side Effects,” could lead one to believe that this film is an exposé of Big Pharma wrapped up as entertainment. Nothing could be further from the theme of this film. Big Pharma wrongdoing isn’t even the backdrop. “Side Effects” is about something entirely different. While on experimental new anti-depressants, Emily (Rooney Mara) commits murder as she sleepwalks. Or does she? But getting to the bottom of the whodunit still isn’t what the film is about.

Emily’s husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), has just been released from prison for insider trading. Emily should be thrilled that they’re together again, but depression is eating her up. Her depressive behavior is ruining both their lives, and Emily is always teetering on the brink of suicide. She is in the care of psychiatrist, Dr. Banks (Jude Law), who is responsible for administering the experimental drug to her. Everyone is kind and patient with Emily until the killing changes everything. Will Emily be charged with the crime? Or will she be declared insane and be locked up? Will Dr. Banks be incriminated? There is so much at stake for both of them, and Emily’s former psychiatrist, Dr. Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), complicates the proceedings as a third party with her own interests in the case.

The film begins quietly and understatedly. After the death, things heat up and there is a believable, revelatory plot twist approximately every five minutes (a mark of excellent filmmaking--very hard to do without excessive explanation, and “Side Effects” succeeds so well at it). We have to pay keen attention, but when we do, we are rewarded every five minutes! The plot twists double back on themselves, rather than introducing bigger and wilder outside characters, information or action: also a mark of excellence in visual storytelling.

“Side Effects” is a well-made and entertaining film with top-notch filmmakers and actors. Steven Soderbergh directs,  and the score is by the highly-acclaimed Thomas Newman. Screenwriter, Scott Z. Burns, crafts amazingly succinct and subtle dialogue that is both deceptively mundane (for credibility) and fresh (for our enticement) at the same time. The element of surprise is strong, and it becomes impossible to guess how things will turn out.

It’s difficult to say more about this film without giving away too much. It just has to be watched—not experienced—we are definitely observers here. The ending is exceedingly neat and tidy, but the great question raised is: “Can we always act rightly, even when dealt a dirty hand? Or is the only way to prevail to become like those who harm us?”

"The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury." --Marcus Aurelius


--One unnecessarily graphic, explicit, intimate sex scene.

--Inchoate theme about “Madeline.” Shoulda left it out or developed it. Unless it was just a red herring for us, but even then, it was a little too much….

--Dr. Banks’ wife is a bit of a shrew.

--Why did they show us Dr. Banks with the Haitian guy in the beginning? To show you what kind of guy Dr. Banks is.

--We could have picked up the same clues Dr. Banks did. But we didn’t, did we? J

--Seems to me Dr. Banks was a “victim of circumstance,” too.

--The legal stuff was easy to understand and never tedious. Thank you.

--It still pays to be the good guy whether you finish first, last, or not at all. Job had his fortunes restored to him, but it won’t always be that way for us on this earth. However, ULTIMATELY, we will have/inherit/be given/be rewarded with EVERYTHING.  Mark 30:28-31.