Side Effects Film Review

Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum star in Side Effects

Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum star in 'Side Effects' - Photo © Open Road Films

Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty

“Em, Em turn the music down. It’s the middle of the night. Em, are you awake?” asks Martin Taylor (Channing Tatum) to his wife, Emma (Rooney Mara). But it turns out she’s sleepwalking which is one of the possible side effects of the new prescription drug she is taking for her depression and anxiety in the mystery/thriller, Side Effects.
Since Martin was released from prison after serving his sentence for insider trading, Emma has been getting more and more anxious and depressed. And after crashing her car into a wall on purpose, she begins getting treatment by psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law). After trying different medications which seem to have little to no effect on Emma’s condition, Dr. Banks puts her on a new experimental drug he was recently introduced to by a drug representative.
At first both Emma and Martin are thrilled with the results of the drug. Emma tells Dr. Banks in one of her sessions she’s finally able to get some sleep, she’s feeling better, and she and her husband were able to have sex. However, after a sleepwalking incident in which Emma was unaware of what she was doing and was setting the table and playing loud music in the middle of the night, Martin begins to get concerned and thinks maybe she should try something else. But, Emma wants to stay on the drug, convinced no other medication is going to help her with her condition.
One morning Emma wakes to discover she had another of her sleepwalking episodes and finds herself covered in blood and a body with a knife in its back on her floor. Calling 911 in a panic, Emma tells them there has been a murder in her apartment but refuses to admit she did it. It’s not long before Dr. Banks is brought to where Emma is being questioned by the police and Banks begins to worry about his patient and his medical career.
Tired and unoriginal, Side Effects is a slowly paced mystery/thriller with a strong cast but unfortunately an extremely predictable and familiar plot. Rooney Mara gives the best performance in the film as Emma, the seemingly soft, weak and sad young woman who just can’t cope anymore with her charming but truly corrupt husband who’s looking to get back on top in the same exact business that got him put away in prison in the first place. The scene with her waiting for a subway train and getting closer and closer to the edge as the train comes pulling into the station is wonderfully disturbing.
Jude Law gives a solid performance as Dr. Jonathan Banks, her ambitious psychiatrist who wants to help Emma but slowly begins to suspect after the tragedy that there might be much more going on with Emma and the people in her life than he ever suspected. It’s an average almost everyman role which doesn’t allow much for Law to do with until near the third act of the film when he suddenly becomes a brilliant detective. (He’d give Sherlock Holmes a run for his money.)
The biggest problem with the film though is with its heavy-handedness of the secrets about the characters – which won’t be revealed here – which are hinted at and eluded to by both the actors and the director Steven Soderbergh. It’s soooo painfully obvious what’s really going on with the characters that the audience would have to be on drugs themselves not to catch on to the ‘Shhhh, don’t tell’ not-so-shocking truth.
Reminiscent of far superior mystery/thrillers such as Fracture and Jagged Edge, Side Effects is a feeble, unengaging film with twists and turns the audience will see coming a mile away and will forget about not long after they leave the theater.
Side Effects hits theaters on February 8, 2013 and is rated R for sexuality, nudity, violence and language.
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Kevin Finnerty

Kevin Finnerty

Professional film critic since 2003 and a member of the San Diego Film Critics Society. Host of “The Movie Guys” radio film review show from 2007 through 2013. Film and television critic for and a movie buff since 1973.
Kevin Finnerty

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