Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Critics Corner: ‘Side Effects’

    Photo Courtesy of Open Road Pictures

    Corrupt psychiatrists, anti-depressants, insider trading and a star-studded cast make “Side Effects” a mesmerizing film.

    “Side Effects” follows clinically depressed Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) and her husband Martin (Channing Tatum), who is released from prison after serving a four-year sentence for insider trading. After driving her car into the wall of a parking garage in a suicide attempt, Emily is admitted to a mental hospital, where she attends weekly sessions with psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law). After consulting with her previous psychiatrist Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and learning of Emily’s long struggle with depression, Banks puts Emily on anti-depressant drugs, namely Ablixa. All seems to be going with the pill until one of the drug’s bizarre side effects takes hold of Emily—she stabs and kills her husband while she is sleep walking. The ensuing murder investigation and threat of malpractice lead to revealing information about the case and Emily’s history of mental disorder.

    “Side Effects” is the kind of movie that leaves you ethically confused—it’s hard to decide who the “good guys” are. Like Martin Scorsese’s psychological thriller “Shutter Island,” this film is great the first time, but even better when you can identify all the subtle twists and turns upon a second viewing.

    Much like her role in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” Mara plays a young woman with a dark edge. Although her performance in “Side Effects” pales in comparison to her Oscar-nominated turn as Lisbeth, I cannot imagine another actress delivering a more convincing performance.

    Tatum mostly does what he does best, which is look pretty, but it felt out of place such a heavy drama. Unlike Tatum, it was refreshing to see a darker side of Law, who often takes on eager, do-gooder roles or acts the playboy, although his underdeveloped psychology of his character left much to be explained. It is easy to see that Banks is a double agent, but as he “cuts deals” and lies to get to the truth, Law’s cool and composed nature was ill-fitting and confusing.

    As soon as Zeta-Jones appears on-screen it is clear that her character is one of the most mysterious in the film. Her dark clothing palette and thick-rimmed glasses made her look untrustworthy and the deconstruction of the character brought the different aspects of the second half of the film together, but Zeta-Jones never gives away too much. Slowly, the audience sees the inner workings of her practice.

    Despite the impressive individual performances, the cast is an odd mix on camera—it’s hard to believe that the beefy Tatum and edgy Mara could ever be a couple, or that Law and Zeta-Jones are eminent psychiatrists.

    This movie should be on your “must see” list if you are a fan of plot twists and psychological thrillers in the vein of “Shutter Island” and Christopher Nolan’s “The Prestige.” The script is very original. Although the aesthetics made it hard to be fully drawn into the film and performances were not necessarily mind-blowing across the board, the film is highly entertaining and tells a fascinating story.

    Veronica may be reached at [email protected]

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