Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"Side Effects" (2013) - Movie Review

Steven Soderbergh can do a world of difference to a catatonic plot. The appreciation and respect Andrei Tarkovsky gets for his excruciating details for portraying the minutiae of regularity in emotions and events should properly and rightfully presented to this great director. The disappointment this reviewer had with Tarkovsky is known but I have an understanding for the people that admire that classic director. What I see in the simplistic yet punctuated grandeur of Soderbergh’s style might have been the similar experience those viewers perceive and endure to be satisfied. Steven Soderbergh said to have decided to retire from films, a decision he has consciously made in order to change direction to another form of art at the age of 50. This act in itself tells about a man who has a clarity in understanding of his objectives. I will miss his films but I sure hope he comes back sporadically.

Here is “Side Effects” that brightens the glossiness of the modernity and then dulls it by the brownish tin it bodes through its cinematography. Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) is a sad woman and the recent release of her loving husband Martin Taylor (Channing Tatum) from prison does not alleviate it either. After serving time for insider trading brought down the glorious life of Emily. She has managed to go through with that ordeal but the depression gets the better of her. One fine evening she hurriedly goes through and sincerely commits her first suicide attempt by driving directly into a wall. Enter psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) who has the charm and kindness any psychiatric would beg to have. He reads into this clearly and persuades her to visit him on a deal that Emily visits him regularly. With the history of her depression with her previous psychiatrist Dr. Victoria Seabert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), she agrees on that deal.

Emily is taken through the trial and error of the pills. Soderbergh gives a world where the understanding of human mind and emotions are unpredictable. To that the current trend of pharmaceuticals provides happiness with of course cost of the supposed side effects. Emily goes through multitude of these. While this is happening, Dr. Banks is in the process of enlisting new patients on another experimental drug. Through these Soderbergh provides a scary situation of how we rely on experts especially to achieve happiness and how those experts rely on trial methods and pharmaceuticals and fellow doctors to guide them. This while is no different from a treatment for a physiological problem is even more complicated than that. The modern miracle of science have made the study and behaviour through the mechanics of a human body accessible and solvable. Yet the mind is riddle of its own. “Side Effects” gives a chilling reality of this consistent unreliability in that and how the world of pharmaceuticals, psychiatry and the media circus around it.

Soderbergh goes deeper into this subject when Emily’s new prescription of Ablixa results in a fatality due to its side effects. This shakes the foundation of the life Dr. Banks has and suddenly rattles everything on the study of medication that are prescribed to treat mental illness. Just as you are exposed to this current affairs of psychological treatments, Soderbergh turns this into a thriller that you soon begin to doubt and become paranoid as Dr. Banks.

Jude Law follows his performance with the director following “Contagion” and he is the psychiatrist we would love to have. A trustworthy face and a kindness in his voice makes it all good even when he would provide the sweet nectar of death. His Dr. Banks navigates from a sensible doctor building a life with his family into a paranoid man determined to unlock the cause of the decline his patient has caused through the drug he prescribed. Rooney Mara plays the victim out here whom we are in constant sympathy and confusion. Catherine Zeta-Jones as Emily’s previous psychiatrist wears her hair and dress that comes off both as a strong woman who can shoo away any kind of accusation with perfect confidence with a calculated cruelty.

Soderbergh in his last feature film steers the film into various territory from the world of psychiatric drugs through media hype and into the paranoid finally settling on a psychological thriller that descends on a like a convincing riddle solving itself admirably. Under his alias Peter Andrews, Soderbergh brings his style virtuoso into play where there is a constant outer layer of mild colour tone to indicate his presence. I have constantly admired his work and even in the most mediocre genre you can see his work. To create and establish a class of one’s work without a presumptuous nature is an art by itself. Here he proves that again and provides a classic homage to the genre and shuddering us in the process of the world we live in where we swallow pills like a candy.

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