Director: Steven Soderbergh
Open Road Films
We keep hearing that Steven Soderbergh is done with directing films – and he keeps mixing it up by adding in documentaries and TV episodes and of course his (often) maddening “exercises”. But it’s a remarkable body of work – particularly when you look at the highlights. A film like Traffic burns into you. As of course did his wonderful debut, Sex, Lies, & Videotape. They’re both present within Side Effects. But this is no “Greatest Hits” even if it does end up being his victory lap in the film world.
It’s a brilliant psychological thriller, one part comment on the failing economy and the side effects of prescription meds; within that the side effects of working in the pharmaceutical trade, patient care taking the backseat to profit.
But then it twists. Then it twists again. Then it morphs into a slideshow offering glimpses of Soderbergh’s other fine film work. You’ll recognise notes from Out Of Sight just as much as The Girlfriend Experience. But I kept coming back to Traffic; this new film a reminder of just how powerful that movie experience was.
And as the Hitchcockian botboiler style swirls and the tension ratchets I thought too of the couple of times that David Mamet has been effective with film – that you are so intrigued by where it’s going and how it’s going to play out that you forgive the occasional absurdity, you move beyond the perfunctory suspension of disbelief clause and sit with the film, sit within it; imagine yourself in the nightmare scenario – sympathising too with more than one character.
Jude Law is great, not always something you can say. Catherine Zeta-Jones is beautifully cold; chilling. But this is Rooney Mara’s film – she is the great lead here; it’s almost tour-de-force acting from her, even if you want to think of it as bordering on tour-de-farce at times.
That golden hue frames each scene too; a trademark of Soderbergh films; a dream-like glint that works not just to show that this is film – but that it has that dream-like edge; an almost hyper-realism reflecting back on itself.
Also Thomas Newman’s score is brilliantly evocative of the Hitchcock-feel that slowly unfolds, slowly seeps into and around this film.
I loved it. A popcorn flick at the end of the day. The best kind though because we are not just pulled in for the ride, not just taken for a ride we’re given a few different angles and options for things to think about later – after the credits roll. I like that kind of a film the best. Nothing too serious, unless of course you want it to be.