Girls are crazy, drugs are complicated, and Jude Law is awesome.
In Side Effects, Dr. Jonathon Banks (Jude Law) finds his life crumbling at the seams when he prescribes hopelessly depressed Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) a new anti-depressant by the name of Ablixa. Unfortunately, the drug seems that it may have a few bugs as Emily winds up brutally murdering her husband (Channing Tatum), claiming she has no recollection of those events afterwards and is shortly placed in a mental ward. Running out of people to blame, the finger is inevitably pointed at Dr. Banks who soon finds himself out of a job and his family life on the rocks. Desperate to reclaim his life, Dr. Banks decides to investigate the murder and finds that there may be more to this case than meets the eye.
Jude Law easily proves that he is a force to be reckoned with as Dr. Jonathon Banks, the sympathetic psychiatrist that the film centers around. He is a good doctor, one who cares about his patients and really does want to help them. Law does the whole backed into a corner thing incredibly well, as everybody seems to be out to tear the poor guy down. I was on his side for the whole film (it’s really hard not to like this guy…he’s just so nice), and it’s fun to see him first reactively lash out in an attempt to protect himself, and then buckle down as he decides to use his brains and surprisingly apt detective skills to solve his problem. He is a great character here (I think the best one in the film to be completely honest), and he once again shows that he is indeed a versatile actor.
Catherine Zeta-Jones plays a fantastic witch here, as Dr. Victoria Siebert, Emily’s old psychiatrist that may hold the key to this complex puzzle. She seems to be leading the charge against Dr. Banks, for whatever reason and it’s clear that she won’t stop until his life is in ruins. She is a fairly complicated character here, and Jones pulls it off easily, seeming to enjoy being a meanie.
Rooney Mara is superb as always in the role of apparent victim Emily Taylor, but is she really as innocent as she seems? Mara has several roles to play here, and she pulls it all off with a professional ease, never once showing the audience her real hand. She is heartbreakingly beautiful as ever in the film, and it’s hard not to sympathize with her character at first….her life seems to have been destroyed by forces beyond her control. Of course, whether things really are as they seem is the big question here and naturally all is answered by the end of this film.
Side Effects is a smart, well-crafted thriller that is twisty and fun as hell. It starts out as a thriller about the pharmaceutical industry, turns into paranoid thriller, then becomes a detective thriller before finally bringing all three of these together as the truth is finally revealed (Trust me, you WON’T see this one coming). It’s rare to see such a great film being released so early in the year, but already Side Effects has become one of the best films of 2013. It’s smart, well-crafted, superbly acted, and not at all what it appears to be. It’s a fun ride that I would gladly take again. If this really is Steven Soderberg’s last theatrical film, he chose to go out on a high note. If you like your thrillers classy and smart, then Side Effects fits the bill.
~Daniel “Smalls” Huffman