Side Effects may include disappointment. Ostensibly director Stephen Soderbergh’s last feature film effort (at least for a while), and starring many of his frequent collaborators (Channing Tatum, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jude Law), this Scott Z. Burns-penned pharma-thriller has a killer premise. But I think the filmmakers picked the wrong protagonist to follow, thus leaving me stranded when the plot makes a left-field twist.
Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) is the depressed wife of an inside trader (Tatum), sprung from the joint after four years. Her “hopelessness” leads her into a relationship with a psychiatrist (Law) who ends up putting her on a brand new drug, Ablixa. It causes some unexpected side effects.
[SPOILERS] And I was buying all of that. So much so, that when Jude Law’s character began to question whether Emily was faking it, I still believed perhaps she was just hyper-suggestible, rather than guilty. And that twist (not the murder) is where the movie lost me. I think the story would have been better told with Law’s character as the protagonist, and with more breadcrumbs that cause us to vacillate more between Emily’s story and his. If this was truly suspense in the Hitchcockian mode, we would have seen that he was using the saline solution when he does the truth test, and the scene would have been drawn out. There would be no need for the scene between him and the prosecutor that follows.
Side Effects is not a bad movie by general movie standards, but I would not rank it highly in the Soderbergh canon. The background of the story, which shows how doctors are in bed with pharmaceutical companies, and how inside knowledge of drug trials is exploited by market manipulators (also seen in the Burns/Soderbergh film Contagion), was far more interesting to me than the arbitrary plot machinations.