Bob Balaban's dark comic horror about a young boy suspecting his suburban parents to be cannibals
After she is prescribed a new form of antidepressant medication by her psychiatrist (Jude Law), a young woman (Rooney Mara) finds her life irreparably damaged by the drug’s side effects.
At first glance, Side Effects seems to sit in the same camp as Steven Soderbergh’s recent rush of ensemble-tooled thrillers such as the revenge flick Haywire and the apocalyptic Contagion. Indeed, like the latter, this film springs from a Scott Z Burns script, takes inspiration from contemporary medical issues and features Jude Law touting a miracle cure for the world’s problems - only, this time, it’s not a viral epidemic he’s fighting, but the suicidal depression of a young woman.
Dr Jonathan Banks (Law) approaches Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) like any other patient, and prescribes her the same cocktail of medication with names full of high-score Scrabble letters - Zoloft, Effexor - that keeps everyone from Emily’s work colleagues to Banks’ own wife on an even keel. But when a cushy consulting contract with a pharmaceutical corporation comes his way, Banks instead moves his patient onto a new drug, Ablixa, which has dangerous side effects not only for Emily, but for her husband (Channing Tatum). Faced with lawsuits and a tarnished reputation, Banks desperately searches for the truth behind this perilous wonder drug.
This could easily have been a brow-beating soapbox rant about premature prescription and medical corruption, but Soderbergh and Burns refuse to conform to expectations, and Side Effects constantly shifts and morphs before our eyes. It’s a testament to the flexibility of the performances (if perhaps not their subtlety, as evidenced by Catherine Zeta-Jones vamping it up as Emily’s suspicious former psychiatrist), that the film baits and switches with such grace, jumping from a psycho-thriller satire to an exhilarating potboiler filled with red herrings, double-crosses and the greyest of moral landscapes. As Banks starts to uncover a complex conspiracy, Law proves to be as adept an amateur gumshoe as he was a corporate shill, but it’s Mara - already turning heads for her performance in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - who really impresses here, bearing not only the narrative’s emotional core, but also its central mystery.
Side Effects’ rug-pulling might not be the most enriching or socially engaging cinema experience, but Soderbergh is clearly committed. In fact, the film’s opening sequence should have given the game away. It recalls Psycho with its slow survey of an urban skyline, homing in on a high-rise apartment building and the people inside, moving from macrocosmic themes to the domestic microcosm. The link to Hitchcock is key - for Soderbergh is playing the audience like a piano, and what a joy it is to be played.
A masterful double-bluff. What starts as a taut, topical drama about medicated America becomes a classic, twisted neo-noir that sees Soderbergh pushing aside on-the-nose themes in favour of sheer entertainment.
Film4-backed films picked up five awards at the British Independent Film Awards last night, the annual ceremony which recognises excellence and achievement in independent filmmaking. [caption id="att
In case you couldn't make it to the industry forum held at Channel 4 on Tuesday 19th November 2013, here are videos of the keynote speeches and panel discussions. For more information, docs and data,
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@Film4 "Life is the messy bits." Coming up next at 6.55pm, Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave star in romantic drama Letters To Juliet.
@Film4 RT @Film4Insider: A huge thanks to @BIFA_film for a great night last night, and congratulations to all the winners. http://t.co/KzlBGjeeph
@Film4 Reminder! Tonight at 9pm we're screening alien invasion action flick Battle: Los Angeles for the first time: http://t.co/fu8PaA4R3f
@Film4 RT @catherinebray: You can keep your John Lewises, the Film4 Christmas advent is my favourite: http://t.co/GM81wQNDAd
@Film4 RT @Channel4: Film4-backed films bring home the bacon with five BIFAs http://t.co/DaKvs84Nxz
On Film4: 15 December 2013