FILM: Soderbergh cures with side effects

In Arts & Entertainment, Film & TV
Courtesy of MCT
Courtesy of MCT

The only side effect of seeing this movie is the pain that it might be the director’s last.

In true fashion of film director Steven Soderbergh, Side Effects tells a story that has as many angles as it does notable actors. Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones star and disappear into their roles.

Emily Taylor (Mara) plays a young depressed wife conflicted with mixed emotions as her husband, Martin Taylor (Tatum), is released from prison after four years due to insider trading.

One day after work, Emily crashes her car and is taken to a hospital where her mental state is evaluated by psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Banks (Law). Emily becomes a regular patient of Dr. Banks. She opens up about her home situation with her husband.

Dr. Banks learns she has a history of mental health issues and contacts her previous physician, Dr. Victoria Siebert (Zeta-Jones).

After a consult with Dr. Siebert, Emily is prescribed a new drug and her personal life immediately begins improving. However, the movie’s title kicks in and everything takes a dark, twisted turn.

Side Effects takes many of these turns, all the while spinning Dr. Banks’ life out of control. The film becomes a game of trying to figure out which side effects are prescribed and which ones are not.

If the movie is the last for the director, as it has been rumored, then it is a testament to what future audiences will be missing.

Soderbergh began his career as a film director with the independent hit Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989), which tells the story of a man’s affair and unique fetish. The critical praise he received from the film foreshadowed what the young director would become accustomed to.

While continuing to direct independent films throughout the last decade of the century, he also picked up a knack for producing, as many directors usually do.

One of his earliest producer credits came from 1998’s Pleasantville, where Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon took their lead characters into a fictional black and white town and literally filled it with color.

That same year started Soderbergh’s streak of annual releases, with some of those years including multiple titles. Two years into the streak, a double dose of dramas landed him into the Hollywood limelight.

His biographical film Erin Brockovich earned lead Julia Roberts an Oscar for Best Actress at the 73rd Academy Awards, while also garnering himself a nomination for Best Director. Sadly, he would not win for that movie, but instead took home the same award for his other acclaimed film Traffic, a tale about the underground drug trade between Mexico and America.

Cashing in on his newfound fame, the director went on to do Ocean’s Eleven in 2001. With George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon headlining the enormous cast, as well as the sequels in 2004 and 2007, Soderbergh proved he could entertain audiences and critics alike.

In 2008, he partnered up with Traffic actor Benicio Del Torro to do a two-part film adaptation of the life of Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Che parts I and II were also firsts for the director as he elected to shoot a majority of the films in Spanish.

Recently, Soderbergh seems to have made a blitz towards the finish line. Starting in 2011, he reminded audiences to wash their hands in the medical disaster film Contagion, once again proving his prowess over large, notable acting casts.

He then released the stylized thriller Haywire in 2012. Starring former mixed martial artist Gina Carano, the roller coaster movie is high on action, low on dialogue and over before you know it.

Pleasing the ladies, 2012’s Magic Mike tells the story of a male stripper played by the aforementioned Tatum. Paying to see skin with an actual story proved to be lucrative for Hollywood. A sequel for the skin-baring hit is expected.

If this truly is the end of Soderbergh’s directing career, then it went by too fast. Consistently releasing smart, entertaining films has to be draining on a person, so hopefully this is just a brief hiatus; for he has surely earned it.

Do yourself a favor, go get your Soderbergh shot and enjoy the side effects.

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