Steven Soderbergh's latest movie, "Side Effects", stars Rooney Mara as a woman who is functionally depressed. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman filed the following report for NY1.
"Side Effects", Steven Soderbergh's entertaining new movie, is a psychopharmacological thriller about a woman named Emily who is functionally depressed, a tough quality to dramatize effectively. Fortunately, she’s played by Rooney Mara, who has mastered the trick of how to act recessive and threatening at the same time. In her first leading role since "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo", Mara transforms herself yet again, this time into a very different specimen of seductive, damaged will.
Emily, an upper-middle-class wastrel-princess, is married to Martin, played by Channing Tatum, who's just gotten out of prison after serving four years for insider trading. She's trying to be there for him, but she's remote, disaffected. After she crashes her car into a parking-garage wall, a psychiatrist, played by Jude Law puts her on a new miracle pill called Ablixa.
In "Side Effects", Soderbergh turns a cleverly overwrought, at times knowingly pulpy scenario into a pop projection of our most lurid fears about antidepressants. The drug Emily is on has a curious side effect: she begins to walk in her sleep. And then, in the middle of her sleepwalking, she does something very, very bad. It becomes a tabloid news story, with Emily as the poster girl for everything that can go wrong when you're using drugs to shift the DNA of how you act and who you are.
"Side Effects" is a lavishly dread-fueled suspense movie full of twists, reversals, and double crosses. Soderbergh tweaks the issue of everything we don’t really know about antidepressants, and why our society is now addicted to them. He wants to do for SSRIs what Hitchcock did for psychoanalysis in "Spellbound", and for a while, he succeeds.
But I wish Soderbergh had taken his own movie more seriously. Catherine Zeta-Jones' role as a sultry shrink who looks like she’s about to strip off her lab coat for an '80s music video is borderline ludicrous, and the film’s theme of money-as-the-ultimate-drug is disappointingly rote.
"Side Effects" is mostly a good Saturday-night movie, but by the end, it's caused a few unintended side effects of its own: a bit of head-scratching, and a giggle or two of disbelief.