Side Effects may Include Boredom

Cameron Hines

I guess I should have seen this one coming: after being bored to death by director Steven Soderbergh’s last film (Magic Mike), I was feeling a bit more optimistic about his newest film Side Effects. Unfortunately, it misses the mark and ultimately leaves you wanting more.

The film offers an interesting premise: Emily Taylor (played by Rooney Mara) suffers from depression and is prescribed medication by her psychiatrist, played by Jude Law. At first, the medication does its job, and soon she has restored her relationship with her husband (Channing Tatum) and has gotten her life back on track.

Mara and Tatum have likeable chemistry, as he tries to do right by her after he was incarcerated. As she continues taking the medication, she soon experiences sleepwalking, and then spousal stabbing. This incident leads to a series of scandals and investigations where you never truly know who is the culprit and who is the victim. Catherine Zeta Jones also stars as a former psychiatrist of Mara’s, who reveals that she has a seamy past.

It sounds like a good idea, and there are so many twists and turns, but it’s muddled by a rather flat script by Scott Z. Burns. The plot itself could be interesting, but it never gives the characters any room to do anything interesting.

The most redeemable part of this movie is Law’s performance, as he continues to investigate the event that he is now being blamed for long after the authorities. He isn’t a perfect character though, as he contains flaws and imperfections, something not typical in most thrillers. He’s not the only one though; many of the characters presented have an ambiguity that further keeps you from predicting the ending.

It’s not that Side Effects is a horrible movie; it’s just a very bland one. It’s full of some great actors, but they’re thrown away because the movie is never thrilling, something thrillers tend to be.