Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Side Effects

By Sati. Wednesday, May 8, 2013 , , , , , , ,
(spoilers)

For the last few years director Steven Soderbergh was growing increasingly disenchanted with Hollywood. He finally decided to retire and Side Effects is his second to last movie - that title belongs to Behind the Candelabra, HBO produced film that actually found its way to this years' Cannes competition. Soderbergh's disenchantment definitely shows - Side Effects is one of his dullest and most uninspired movies.

In fact, the more I read about the film, the more I think retirement, or at least a long break, may be a good idea for Soderbergh. Some of the ideas he had during the production of this movie - such as casting Justin Timberlake in the role that ultimately went to Channing Tatum (which to be honest is only a little better) or casting Lindsey Lohan as lead - are bizarre and disturbing.
Emily (Rooney Mara) is a strange young woman. She seems sad, off, lost. She is about to greet her husband back home, who spent four years in prison for insider trading. When he is released, Emily doesn't seem much happier. She goes to the parking lot, she starts a car and she drives her car into a wall. In the hospital she meets Dr Jonathan who agrees not to put her under observation if she begins therapy with him. She starts taking a drug - Ablixa - which is supposed to be make her happy. Instead Emily starts to sleep walk, behave strangely and soon other side effects follow...

I assure you this synopsis is much more interesting and coherent than the movie itself. Side Effects is riddled with so many problems, it's hard to figure out which is the biggest one. My choice would be the lack of focus. Soderbergh really doesn't know what he wants to do with this story. Is it a thriller about side effects of the drugs? Is it a thriller about a young, lost woman? Is it a thriller about a shrink caught up in conspiracy? There is a movie out there, a good movie, but Soderbergh doesn't appear to have skills to pull it off anymore. Either that or he was so bored by the very plot of this one, he didn't even try.
The film gives up on having a clear protagonist for the sake of a dumb twist in even dumber murder mystery. So instead of following just Emily, the film shifts focused from her to Jonathan after she kills her husband and says she doesn't remember doing that. Is it a side effects to the drugs Jonathan prescribed her or is she lying? Did she plan the whole thing or is it a tragic side effect?

Another issue is that I really didn't care - Emily has personality of a potato, her husband is equally bland, Emily's old shrink played by Catherine Zeta Jones (who is, by the way, aging horribly) acts and looks like cartoon villain and Jonathan's wife is an utter and complete bitch. Jonathan is the only likable person in this whole mess, but that doesn't make him into interesting character.
The whole murder plot is as ridiculous as it is boring to unfold - so let me get this straight - Emily and her doctor/lover Victoria hoped that the will earn money claiming Ablixa causes side effects (there was talk about stock exchange or something, I really didn't care but I got the gist). The claim to this side effects existed only because Emily killed her husband. She killed him because she hoped without him "things will be different" after visiting him every week for four years when he was in prison? Really?

The film makes the claim that Emily is sane and she knows what she is doing but I wouldn't say that. For me someone who kills her husband simply because she hopes things will be better is a psychopath. She manipulates everyone in the movie and does so with no remorse. Again, I don't think the writer thought of that, considering how half-assed this whole story was.
Apparently Soderbergh said his biggest influence on this movie was Fatal Attraction. Well, then I must bring his apparent lack of skills again - Adrien Lyne knows how to make certain scenes erotic. Soderbergh, used to know it (Out of Sight, Solaris) but here he completely fails. Rooney Mara and Catherine Zeta Jones actually make out in this film and there is no heat, no spark, no desire. I couldn't believe it was shot by the same person who gave us tub scene between J.Lo and Clooney.

As usual with his movies, the film is very stylish. The cinematography and editing are very skillful and elegant, but the raw style and serious tone mixed with something that was supposed to be erotic and sensual really don't go well. It doesn't help that the characters seem so one dimensional. Everything looks polished, sterile, instead of passionate and dirty. Murder! Sex! Betrayal! You can't talk about those things and keeping things so neat and clean.
The film is only watchable because of the way it looks, sounds (Thomas Newman score was better than this movie deserves) and because of the dedicated cast. Tatum and Zeta Jones do what they can with the material, which really doesn't require them to do all that much. What is it with Soderbergh and Tatum anyways? I wouldn't say the man can't act but it's almost as if he was his muse.

Mara and Law are very good in their roles. Mara, who is a very talented actress, really deserves better material though, considering she even did full frontal here. That said she is utterly convincing as cold and detached Emily. It is Law however who completely steals the show as Jonathan, managing to actually create something of slightly complex character in the movie filled with cliches.
I'm not sure why I'm so surprised this movie was average. Soderbergh haven't made a great movie in years. The fact that Side Effects is boring and forgettable could be forgiven. But the fact that it was lazy and made by someone who appeared not to have any interest in it? Absolutely not.

Side Effects (2013, 106 min)
Plot: Emily Taylor, despite being reunited with her husband from prison, becomes severely depressed with emotional episodes and suicide attempts. Her psychiatrist, Jonathan Banks, after conferring with her previous doctor, eventually prescribes an experimental new medication called Ablixa. The plot thickens when the drug starts having unexpected side effects on Emily.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Scott Z. Burns
Stars: Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Jude Law  

RELATED POSTS:

34 comments:

  1. I knew you'd slash this movie apart, because it was a complete mess. Definitely a 2013 film worth skipping.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, it was utterly forgettable.

      Delete
  2. I am so glad to hear I'm not the only one who wasn't impressed with this movie. I found it to be a pretty big let down. I also agree that the big murder mystery twist was ridiculous. Great review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! The murder plot was just lazy and hard to believe.

      Delete
  3. Never stops being twisty, turny, and crazy, and I liked it a lot for that fact. Good review Sati.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, unfortunately for me all the twists were rather lazy and silly.

      Delete
  4. I'm so sad to hear Side Effects is a flop. It was one of my most anticipated films of the year and I have a feeling I won't even be watching it. I haven't seen one reviewer who liked it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's really mediocre and in addition it's a waste of talent. Mara and Law give good performances, but I'm not sure if it's enough to give it a watch.

      Delete
  5. Soderbergh has made very films I've liked, which is why I'm always surprised when his films always et good reviews (it's what tricks me into keep watching them) so it's nice to see a negative review for once, this film looked very boring from the trailers. Nice to here Rooney Mara is good in it though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mara is very good, but yeah, the movie is far from anything memorable or great. I think Soderbergh haven't made good movie since Ocean's 13.

      Delete
  6. Great review Sati! Since critics seem to place Soderbergh in a pedestal, glad to see that I'm not alone who thinks this movie is boring and forgettable. I mean the concept is interesting but all the plot twists actually didn't do much for me, the way it's executed is just not that intriguing. Jude Law and Rooney Mara were good, Mara perhaps was given the most to do here, but overall it's just meh for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I really don't understand the love for this guy. Sure his movies are stylish, some of them are really fun but other than Solaris I didn't completely love any of his movies.

      Exactly it was just so forgettable. The idea was good but they turned it into a very boring movie.

      Delete
  7. I thought Haywire was Soderbergh's last below average movie, but I guess not. The cast still entices me to see it but I guess I'll go in not expecting much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The cast is good, but I found the movie to be much worse than Haywire, which was at least entertaining.

      Delete
    2. One of the reasons I keep going back to Haywire is at least Michael Fassbender, and Gina Carano who was an awesome ***kicker. There aren't many films (I know of) where the girl beats everyone up. :)

      Delete
    3. Fassy was so awesome there, he always is :) Oh yeah the asskicking scenes were amazing in Haywire,

      Delete
  8. I wouldn't say Jonathan is a completely likeable person. He does do some of his own mainipulation(sorry for misspell) as well. I enjoyed this movie and thought it was a good little mystery movie. Is it realistic, probably not and I do agree with what you wrote here, but it did entertain me

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah he does, but it's only after Emily uses him as a scapegoat. Glad you found it entertaining, I'm sure some people liked the film it just didn't work for me.

      Delete
  9. I loved Side effects but I wasn’t alone. Side Effects is one of 2013’s best reviewed films (85% on RT) yet you’d never know it based on all the anger directed toward it on this page. Too funny.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure if it's funny. But I do find it amusing whenever people back their opinion by "I'm not alone". It's movies, it's subjective. And RT is just one group in the world judging them.

      Delete
  10. Nice review! I think I liked it a little more than you but I still wasn't overly impressed by it. I totally agree that it's unclear as to what kind of film it wants to be and I thought it just threw so many twists and turns at you at once that it just became a bit of a jumbled mess. Law and Mara were pretty decent though, I was impressed by them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Law was very impressive, I think he is a good actor but I rarely get to praise his performances, usually the material is not enough. Mara really deserves better than this movie.

      Delete
  11. I was thinking of watching this too, but after reading your review, I think I'll skip it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that's a good choice :)

      Delete
  12. Sweet review. SS is wildly inconsistent, but that's what I like about him (that and the fact that he doesn't give a f--k). If this is his last rodeo (or second to last), I'll check it out just because.

    Dig your point about saying 'well, it got good reviews - so I'm not alone'. I use that argument too often myself. Though, as you know, I tend to gravitate to movies that no one liked, just to see what's up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! His last movie looks like it can be much better than this one.

      Delete
  13. Interesting. I agree that there's a lack of focus, yet that's what I really enjoyed about it. Soderbergh keeps the audience on our toes by shifting frequently between genres. In some way it is just a filmmaking exercise, but it worked for me. I agree that Zeta Jones isn't good, but Mara is excellent and Law is solid too. I'll admit that I'm a Soderbergh apologist (with a few exceptions) but think there's more to this movie than what's on the surface. I haven't seen a ton of 2013 films yet, but it's one of my favorites so far.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have seen only several of 2013 movies and they all disappointed me so far. Hopefully the latter part of the year will have better movies. I usually like Sodebergh's stuff but I think his movies were on a steep decline route ever since he finished Ocean's 11 trilogy.

      Delete
  14. I see your reasons for lack of being impressed and, while I don't disagree with you, I still found reasons to be somewhat impressed myself at Soderbergh's storytelling. It was a strange feeling in that I didn't like it, it was too long, mainly boring that kept me disconnected from its characters...but I still wanted to know how the story ended and thus made me like how he chose to tell his so-so story.

    I couldn't even finish my review for this one. You brought up several of the reasons that I couldn't in yours! Thanks for this. Nice job.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I think the main issue was the script, it really looked lazy and the story had all those holes and silly resolutions.

      Delete
  15. Excellent review! I have some problems with the film, but I really enjoyed it overall. Glad to see you liked Newman's score and Law's performance too. Those were the highlights of the film for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, these two things were definitely my favorite in the flick.

      Delete
  16. I'm back ... finally. As it turns out, I didn't like this movie any better than you did. There was no comprehensible motive for Emily to murder her husband, and it was -- as you aptly put it -- an incomprehensible mess.

    This could have been a good character-driven movie, or an interesting film about the problems surrounding psychoactive medications, or a hot thriller. It was definitely none of these. Your suggestion that, early on, Soderbergh just gave up caring seems plausible.

    The only thing you and I disagree on is Zeta-Jones -- I think she's aging quite well. :-P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah I mean that whole plan was so half-assed! I mean she kept visiting all those years just to kill him? That's stupid.

      I don't know maybe they overdid her make up here...she seems quite lovely in real life.

      Delete