Side Effects

Director Steven Soderbergh’s latest firecracker of a movie, Side Effects, is really two distinct movies. As good as it is, it would have been even better if it had stuck with the first one. Side Effects begins as a harrowing look at a woman’s descent into a crushing clinical depression and finally full-blown psychosis. Rooney Mara’s Emily Taylor is up against it as her shifty husband Martin (Channing Tatum, or is it Tatum Channing?) reintegrates into life and work following a four-year stint in the hole for insider trading. Jude Law is the earnest psychiatrist who treats Emily after a suicide attempt, with advice from her former therapist, Dr. Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and a host of psychotropic drugs, including the new and controversial (and fictional) Ablixa. This brilliantly effective section of the movie includes some pointed social criticism of people’s tendency to want the right pill to make everything better, the drug industry and its specious influence over clinicians, and it culminates in an episode of violence that’s more disturbing than most horror movies could ever hope for. And then things really go off the rails. movie’s plot twists are best served cold and jolting, but every aspect of who and what’s mentioned above figures in. While this second section of the movie is lurid fun to the last frame, it somewhat trivializes the serious subject matter of the film’s first section as it careens wildly from one implausible twist to the next. However, as hairy as things get, the movie’s secret weapon throughout is Mara, who is a different person from scene to scene, and looks different from the inside out from shot to shot. It’s a chameleon-like, virtuoso performance in a movie that’s provocative and gripping in its way even if it doesn’t pull off the high-wire act as well as she does.

Shot digitally, the imagery and artistry behind it are striking on this Blu-ray. Moody and evocative, the camera work catches reflections and always seems to be looking at what’s happening from an unusual perspective. The image is clean and detailed with a terrific sense of convincing depth. The soundtrack is effective with ambience at all times, with the star being the score. The movie is unnerving from the get-go, with a sense of imminent doom that’s underscored beautifully by Thomas Newman’s haunting music. Extras include a couple of fake drug commercials, a spoofy and funny Behind the Scenes shot by Zeta-Jones, and an Ablixa Website.

Studio: Universal, 2013
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 106 mins.
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones