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'Side Effects' has surprises

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POSTED: August 9, 2013 9:54 a.m.
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Rooney Mara plays a young woman, possibly suffering from depression, who kills her husband but who may not be responsible in "Side Effects."

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The psychological thriller “Side Effects,” the latest film from director Steven Soderberg, has been freshly released to home video. Is it just what the doctor ordered? Let’s find out.
Rooney Mara, an Oscar nominee in 2011’s “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” plays Emily, a young woman suffering from depression. Her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), is newly released from prison after a four-year stretch for insider trading. In fact, it is the young couple’s dramatic fall from living on the upper crust that has caused Emily’s depression.
Martin has been home only a night or two, trying to get back on his feet, when Emily inexplicably drives her car into a brick wall on purpose. Emily’s new psychiatrist, Dr. Banks (Jude Law), starts her on some anti-depressants, all of which seem to make her sick until she asks about the drug Ablixa. Without doing his due diligence on the drug, Banks prescribes it and, next thing we know, Emily is sleepwalking, and disturbingly so. On one sleepwalk, she stabs and kills Martin.
Is it Emily’s fault, if she was unconscious and without intent? Is it her shrink’s fault? Is the drug company to blame? Actually, some of our players may be hiding something.
Though I’ve been a fan of some of the gems Soderberg has produced during his career, I wasn’t a fan of his last three: “Contagion,” “Haywire” and “Magic Mike.” Each had loads of potential, but a somewhat weak follow-through. I really expected more of the same from “Side Effects,” but I’ve got to say I was pleasantly surprised.
Instead of becoming a heavy-handed cautionary tale on the danger of prescription drugs, the story becomes more of a thriller as it unfolds. Law does his best work since, well, 2003 and “Cold Mountain.” Mara always is sharp, while Tatum’s role is minor and he flies under the radar. Not all the critics liked Catherine Zeta-Jones here, but I thought she did a great job in her part as Emily’s first doctor. She’s been given some mediocre work lately, so this role stood out for me.
By the end, it is clear who the good guys and bad guys are, and you’re at the edge of your seat wondering if good will prevail or simply get stuck holding the bag.
I’m a fan!

 

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