(no relation to the Woody Allen book of the same name)
Um... Spoilers? Seriously, don't read on if you haven't seen the movie. And if you haven't yet, don't even watch any trailers if you can help it. Also if you haven't seen it... what are you waiting for? The Tatum ain't got all day...
What elevates Steven Soderbergh's latest (and last?) feature film, Side Effects, from being a very good, unusually watchable Lifetime movie of the weekend to being fantastic popular art and entertainment (though neither should be mutually exclusive, one of Soderbergh's true gifts as a storyteller), is the inventive, always purposeful camerawork, the outstanding acting, and that Soderbergh himself takes this story fully seriously, so that we might as well. I didn't even fully realize it was a thriller until about
halfway in when it became, for a short while, like a Law & Order procedural. In a way it's that, and it's still a "Lifetime" movie to give it that degradation, with this story of a woman who murders her husband as she was sleepwalking.... Or was she? Dun-dun-dun....
But I was always invested in the characters, and it's such a nasty lot of them that even the nicest one (Law) does some questionable things. By the end, I knew I was in the hands of a master once again... who, strangely, leaves this as his "final" film in cinema release. And the 'statement' of the film if there is on - big pharmaceuticals creating drugs that can possibly harm us quite a lot isn't obfuscated entirely either, at least to me - it's just that he and writer Scott Burns handle it with the care of genre filmmakers, so in a sense the material is heightened (such as slavery as the backdrop of a bloody western in Django Unchained). This doesn't need the clinical-procedural treatment of a Contagion.
It needs to have a little pulp and a bunch of melodrama, and Rooney Mara giving it her fucking all, which she does, and Jude Law as the 'straight man' in this comedy of horrors. Even Catherine Zeta-Jones, who we haven't seen in a while all too sadly, gives it her all with a very cunning character, someone who keeps her cards perhaps too close to the chest. Perhaps there could have been more with her character, yes. Perhaps the 'twists' that come in the last like fifteen minutes are too good to be true. But you know what? Who cares if you're sucked into a world as dramatically rich as this one.
In its own way this is a fine culmination of Soderbergh's sort of "genre" period he's been doing with Contagion, Haywire and Magic Mike - films that have style and flair, but you notice it in the little touches in camera movements, placement that may seem 'off' or colors that go askew, and just strong characters in the midst of heightened drama. With this director, in this desensitized cinematic landscape, I wouldn't want it any other way.
...And if I can be a auteurist dickhead for a moment, little observation: Stevie started with video (Spader videotaping a vulnerable Andie McDowell) and ends with Law taping a vulnerable Mara.... OR IS SHE?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?? to infinity !?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!