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imagesI love when I settle down for my “feel bad” movie of the week, only to be jolted into hyper-awareness by a truly unexpected shift.

“Side Effects” did just that.

I am not easily manipulated. Because of my cinematic upbringing, I figure out the twists in a film relatively quickly. 20 minutes for “The Sixth Sense,” less for “The Orphan” and “The Others.”
I am a walking “spoiler” and a lousy movie date. But I give “Side Effects” a pat on the back for this unexpected victory.

The cast is exemplary.

Rooney Mara is flawless as a vacant, hopeless depressive seeking a medication to lift the poison fog that has consumed her. Having spent 13 lost days on the wrong anti-depressant myself, her futility and resignation to despair hit a chord with me. It was so authentic you could almost smell the metallic odor permeating from her unshowered pores.

Then there was the surprise of the ever-versatile Ann Dowd, whose very presence in a film elevates the standard immeasurably. She is so good; you cannot watch her without feeling every emotion alongside her. Lucky are the actors who work with her for her characters are solid (see “Compliance”) and everything a young hopeful strives for under the tutelage of a great teacher. She has only a few scenes as Channing Tatum’s mother but she is riveting.

Jude Law is completely believable as a psychiatrist facing personal and professional challenges brought upon by the firestorm of a media frenzy. He plays a kind of accessible shrink that my years of therapy have never actually encountered but have always dreamed of.

We all know drugs are over prescribed especially to young people.
We know this often has dangerous repercussions.
We know doctors are paid to encourage certain medications.
The drug industry is often unscrupulous.
10 minutes into the film, I was thinking, the Scientologists will be all over this film. This was exactly what Tom Cruise was ranting about to Matt Lauer…. And then…

The film takes some unexpected twists and turns that change the whole focus of the film.

Deftly directed by Steven Soderbergh, (I inadvertently had a little Steven Soderbergh festival having watched “Behind the Candelabra” the night before), one is as captivated by the telling of the story as by the excellence of the actors telling it.

Don’t overlook this film as another indie message movie. It is much much more than that. It is caffeine for your senses. Pay attention. Like “Vertigo”, It may prove even better upon repeated viewings.

1 Response
  • Deirdre Hammer
    August 26, 2013

    Yet another eloquent review of said movie. I tried to watch it and thought it to be painfully slow, so I hit the eject button. But, based on your preceptive review, and artistic insight, I may have to try this again 🙂

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