Side Effects follows Rooney Mara’s Emily Taylor as she attempts to get her life back on track after her husband (Channing Tatum’s Martin) is released from prison, with the character’s tenuous mental state paving the way for an ill-fated decision to begin consuming an experimental new drug called Ablixa. Emily’s decidedly averse reaction to the medication ultimately spells disaster for her psychiatrist, Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), and the latter half of the movie details Banks’ investigation into Emily’s history and motives. For the most part, Side Effects comes off as an almost excessively slow-paced drama that’s been infused with film-noir elements by scripter Scott Z. Burns – with the movie’s arms-length feel perpetuated by Steven Soderbergh’s typically cold, almost clinical directorial choices. There is, as such, never entirely a point at which the viewer is able to embrace either the complex storyline or flawed characters, and it’s worth noting, too, that the film fares especially poorly as it segues into its procedural-like second half (ie Banks’ investigation grows more and more tedious as time progresses). Burns’ emphasis on the progressively convoluted storyline ensures that one’s attempts at working up any interest in or sympathy for the various characters’ endeavors fall increasingly flat, and it consequently goes without saying that the movie’s twist-heavy final stretch is unable to pack the punch that both Burns and Soderbergh have clearly intended (ie it’s impossible to care about any of this stuff by that point). The end result is yet another disappointing misfire from Soderbergh, which is a shame, really, given the strength of the cast and the potential of the premise.
** out of ****