DVD Review: 'Side Effects'

By: Heather Seebach

Say what you will about Steven Soderbergh, but the director's refusal to be boxed into one genre has given us a collection of films that are bold and diverse. In the last two years alone, he has tackled an infectious disease horror film, an ass-kicking action movie, a dramedy about male strippers, a Liberace biopic, and Side Effects, a Hitchcockian thriller about the world of pharmaceuticals.

Rooney Mara stars as Emily Taylor, a woman suffering from depression after her husband (Channing Tatum) is released from prison. She seeks the help of psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) who prescribes her an experimental new drug. But the pills have unexpected - and devastating - side effects, paving the way for a movie full of twists and turns.

The first half of the film unfolds like a warning against over-medication and reliance on pharmaceuticals. All around Emily, people seem to pop mood-altering pills like candy, and the doctors prescribing all the Zoloft, Xanax, etc. are raking in the cash and free rep lunches. Emily seemingly becomes a victim to corporate greed, a topic echoed in the Tatum storyline (he went to prison for insider trading). This portion of the movie drags quite a bit and is too heavy-handed for my taste. 

But the second half of the film focuses more on Dr. Banks, who also suffers the consequences of the new drug. Jude Law is great as his character spirals downward and becomes obsessed with paranoid theories. Here is where Side Effects goes from ethics lesson to Hitchcock thriller, and in turn, the pacing and excitement of the story finally pick up. 

Soderbergh favorite Channing Tatum unfortunately exists only as filler here, but the rest of the cast turns in solid performances, including Catherine Zeta-Jones as a cold psychiatrist with whom Banks butts heads. The film suffers from a slow start, and even a laughable moment here and there (including one Tatum scene that is crucial to the plot), but once it gets moving, the movie has some entertaining surprises up its sleeve. 

The DVD/Blu-ray/Digital Copy Combo release includes a behind-the-scenes featurettes and some viral-type materials like commercials for the fictional drugs in the movie. That release is available as of today, May 21st from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. You can also find it On Demand.
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