Ally Johnson Journal Staff
Opening this Friday, Side Effects is a film with hyper-stylized directorial decisions, phenomenal performances and a script that refuses to succumb to the typical and manages to surprise an audience even when there doesn’t appear to be any surprises left.
Emily (Rooney Mara) and Martin (Channing Tatum) are a well-to-do married couple in New York whose world crumbles beneath their feet when a new-to-the-scene drug is prescribed to Emily to help aid her anxiety. What was supposed to be an easy fix turns out to harbor more side effects than intended.
Much has been made of this project being the last film director Steven Soderbergh would direct and his mastery weaves its way throughout the film with elegance. His perpetual style of diluted and periodic shots continue here as well as close action shots that appear miniscule at one moment and then meaningful in the next. He’s an expert at keeping the audience from breathing for large portions of time, keeping them on their toes, wanting to blink but keeping their eyes wide open in anticipation. He’s proven in the past year with films like Haywire and Magic Mike that he’s truly been able to defy the label of a “genre movie,” always pushing the limits of what the structured guidelines are of a “thriller.”
The cast was stacked with other actors like Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Law and Mara in particular are outstanding, both of whom perfectly convey the mannerisms of one who is losing sense of who they are, what they’ve done and what their future may hold. Law has had a great year of performances with Anna Karenina and Mara is solidifying herself as the actress-to-watch, exuding a range that very few actresses of her generation are capable of. She is absolutely gripping and unpredictable, and you’ll be hard pressed to take your eyes off of her.
Channing Tatum is solid, though not as charming as his character in 21 Jump Street, he stills proves to be a reliable acting partner. The only weak link of the four is Catherine Zeta-Jones who seemed to ham it up a bit, making it obvious to the audience that she was an actress acting rather than fully committing.
This film has its flaws, mainly in the third act, but for the most part it’s a highly enjoyable, if not also a highly stressful ride, that was a welcome for the dead season of movies. January through March is typically a bust for good theatre movies so it’s nice to see a surprise hit, especially since it appears that the next one won’t be for another couple of months.
This film encapsulates the workings of the psyche, who has control and who doesn’t, and it does its best at making the antagonist and protagonist indiscernible. Not perfect, but very good and one of the more thrilling films you’ll see in a while, Side Effects is a film I recommend all Soderbergh fans, and fans of movies alike. This star studded film is sure to provide fans with a unique thriller theatre experience.