Soderbergh nicely weaves mystery into ‘Side Effects’

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, February 6, 2013 7:48pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

A wordless prologue tells us that a violent act will be committed in Steven Soderbergh’s “Side Effects,” but as the movie then flashes backward, we don’t know when the act will happen or who is involved.

This is an intriguing, mildly distracting device, especially when the first 45 minutes of the movie unfold with only the vaguest idea of what it’s all going to be about. But you know it’s going somewhere.

A high-finance type (Channing Tatum) is released from prison. His wife (Rooney Mara) greets him but seems depressed, which she is, clinically speaking. Her career-minded psychiatrist (Jude Law) prescribes the latest in pill-based health care.

For a while, we suspect “Side Effects” is going to unroll as some kind of cautionary tale about Big Pharma, and the ease with which society embraces the latest soma-like sedative of the brave new world.

But the script by Scott Z. Burns veers into genre thriller territory, and thankfully so. After seeming to drift (in a cool, well-acted way) for half its running time, the film snaps into gear and goes into clockwork motion. We won’t recount any more plot here, but the prologue is re-visited and blood is spilled.

Oscar-winner Soderbergh, whose career has ranged from anti-commercial projects (like the two-part “Che”) to mainstream entertainment (the “Ocean’s Eleven” pictures), knows how to move a film along, even if his work has a dour streak that feels dominant here.

Soderbergh’s style is almost willfully impersonal; he’s like an artist who would rather be a technician. He tends to back away from big dramatic moments, which might be why he doesn’t quite stick the landing in the final 10 minutes or so.

But “Side Effects” is a clean ride. Soderbergh has given new life to Jude Law, for instance, and he allows Catherine Zeta-Jones (as a rival doctor) to indulge her frosty side.

The small roles are uncannily well cast, and Rooney Mara, lately the title character in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” is terrific. An actress who works in teeny inflections, she understands that the camera is so close you don’t have to emote all over the place to get your point across.

Soderbergh has declared that this will be his final film, as he turns to painting and other pursuits. That’s too bad, even if it’s just a sabbatical: The guy has fine-tuned a certain kind of mainstream movie (lately “Contagion” and “Magic Mike”) and brought it up a notch. We need more of those.

“Side Effects” 3 ½ stars

A clean, well-paced outing by director Steven Soderbergh, which begins like a cautionary tale about Big Pharma and turns into a murder mystery. Psychiatrist Jude Law dispenses pills to a depressed (and excellent ) Rooney Mara, as Channing Tatum looks on.

Rated: R for nudity, violence, language.

Showing: Alderwood 7, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marsyville, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Sundance, Woodinville, Cascade.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Life

Inside Elle Marie Hair Studio in Smokey Point. (Provided by Acacia Delzer)
The best hair salon in Snohomish County

You voted, we tallied. Here are the results.

For more than a thousand years, Czech leaders – from kings and emperors to Nazis, communists, and presidents – have ruled from Prague Castle, regally perched on a hill above the Vltava River. Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli
Rick Steves’ Europe: History lives in Prague and its hilltop castle

It’s one of Europe’s best-preserved cities, having been spared from last century’s bombs.

Alarm clock in the middle of the night insomnia or dreaming
Trouble sleeping? Try these tips for getting a good night’s rest

Many adults turn to sleep aids, including alcohol, to help them rest, without realizing that their hectic lifestyles may be contributing to their sleeplessness.

The Stumbling Fiddler Band is scheduled to perform March 3 in Everett. (Photo provided by Port Gardner Bay Music Society)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Get ready for St. Patrick’s Day with music by the Stumbling Fiddler Band in Everett.

I was charged an extra $250 for a mistaken car rental upgrade

When Leah Page picks up her rental car from Thrifty, it charges her a $250 upgrade fee. Can it do this without her permission, and how can she get a refund?

Naomi Jacobson as Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer in "Becoming Dr. Ruth" at Village Theatre in Everett. (Auston James)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

“Becoming Dr. Ruth,” which tells the sex therapist’s amazing back story, is now showing at Village Theatre in Everett.

Over 200 years, the magic lantern transformed into an educational peacock

Regarded as magic in the 1650s, this device was refined into the more scientific sounding sciopticon by the mid-1800s.

Market for sale plants. Many plants in pots
Snohomish Garden Club plans annual plant sale

The event is scheduled for April 27 at Swan’s Trail Farms. Proceeds will go to scholarships.

Start planting now so you can stop to smell your own roses all summer long

Late winter to early spring is perfect for planting roses. And with so many varieties to consider, there’s no time to waste.

The 2024 Mazda3 hatchback. (Mazda)
2024 Mazda3 adds a Carbon Turbo trim and more safety features

The charismatic compact is available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback.

Cousins Penny Leslie and Sidney Baker work together on a mural inside a jail cell at the Mukilteo Police Department on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
No more staring at blank canvas in Mukilteo police holding cells

Bright murals now adorn the walls. The artwork is intended to calm and relax detainees.

A heart shaped hand tossed pepperoni pizza, left, and eight-corner Detroit style veggie pizza, right, from Jet’s Pizza on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, at the Everett Herald newsroom in Everett. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Detroit-original Jet’s Pizza lands in WA with thick-crust pies and more

The national chain’s Lynnwood joint is the first in the state. The pizza is tasty — hot or cold. And it makes good date food.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.