A couple of years ago when The Tree of Life came out, director Steven Soderbergh said that he was going to retire because he just felt so blown away by it. Leaving aside how absurd a thought that is in itself, Side Effects is the last of the director’s commitments and he says he’s done. I thought Traffic was fantastic. I love the Ocean’s trilogy. But, after seeing Haywire, his last film, and now Side Effects, yeah. I’m cool with him being done.
The film stars Rooney Mara as a depressed patient with a husband newly returned from prison (Channing Tatum). She begins to see a psychiatrist (Jude Law) who, after consulting with a colleague (Catherine Zeta Jones) puts his patient on a new antidepressant. Following the gritty and harrowing look at addiction I’d just watched in Flight, I thought ok, well now we’re going to tackle depression, the pharmacology cartels who run our health care system, and really meaty stuff. The sorts of things that Soderbergh tackled in films like Traffic. But we don’t. There’s a sort of medicated haze (intentional?) to the entire film. It’s so detached from it’s actors, who seem as equally detached from the plot, which zigs and zags all over the place. It’s tonally odd. If you’d told me the guy who made complex and vibrant, signaturely directed films like Traffic and Ocean’s 11 made this, I’d have asked for one of whatever you were on.
This isn’t to say the film is horrid. It’s not awful. It’s just one of those movies where you sit there, credits roll, and you say….well that just happened. Disappointing. Good cast. Used to be a great director. Average end result.