May 27, 2013

Side Effects

Steven Soderburgh, 2013

          Emily (Rooney Mara) is struggling through depression. During a hospital stay she meets psychiatrist Dr. Banks (Jude Law) who begins treating her. Part of the treatment is with a new, experimental drug called "Eblixa" which is immediately effective, but it's soon realized that it has surprising side effects.
          An engaging, suspenseful film with an intricate story in the mystery genre by the ever-prolific Steven Soderburgh. Having been disappointed with Soderburgh several times in the past, I go into every film with varied expectations, but found this one to be compelling. More sophisticated than Haywire but less far-fetched than Contagion, it has a more realistic feel to it that makes it particularly chilling. The film is shot in New York City, and somehow Soderburgh makes that feel fresh. Instead of the over-shot New York skyline in view, he treats you to corner angles of a green-lit Empire State Building at night through a contemporary apartment window. Almost immediately you see his signature ambient yellow-glow, clean photography of sharp architecture and precise editing. There's a resonant humming throughout the film that seems to be used by many filmmakers these days but certainly adds a chilling pitch that is very fitting in the moment. A very engaging score by Thomas Newman, especially with the use of dream-like tones reminiscent of "Song for Jesse" in the The Assassination of Jesse James. Rooney Mara is really effective in her role as Emily. She is vulnerable, sympathetic but effectively unpredictable. Jude Law gives a noteworthy performance as the determined Dr. Jonathan Banks. It's the third time that Soderburgh has cast Channing Tatum, and for good reason. He's sharp in his role as Martin Taylor, Emily's stock-trading husband recently jailed for insider trading. Soderburgh is without a doubt an intelligent filmmaker, and while I may not love all of his work, they all certainly possess a common signature that is unmistakably his own.

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