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'Side Effects': Soderbergh Q & A and Review Roundup [VIDEO]

Thompson on Hollywood By Sheerly Avni | Thompson on Hollywood January 31, 2013 at 1:11PM

As "Side Effects" co-stars Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones were no-shows at Wednesday night’s group Q & A for the twisty new Steven Soderbergh thriller "Side Effects" (February 7), the filmmaker himself was the star of the night. Soderbergh charmed his post-screening audience at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater as thoroughly as he did the entire internet earlier this week in his conversation with Mary Kate Schilling for Vulture.


Steven Soderbergh
New York Magazine Steven Soderbergh

What begins as a barbed satire of our pill-popping, self-medicating society morphs into something intriguingly different in "Side Effects." Steven Soderbergh's elegantly coiled puzzler spins a tale of clinical depression and psychiatric malpractice into an absorbing, cunningly unpredictable entertainment that, like much of his recent work, closely observes how a particular subset of American society operates in a needy, greedy, paranoid and duplicitous age.

Screen International:

Director Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven trilogy revelled in its nifty cons and elegant double-crosses, but those films’ duplicity is rather tame compared to the outlandish twists and turns of Side Effects, a movie that starts of as a psychological thriller about a deeply depressed woman but soon goes off in other directions, not always successfully. Increasingly ludicrous but also nasty fun, Side Effects is ultimately too clever for its own good, but if you can accept the film’s pokerfaced absurdity on its own terms, you’ll appreciate Soderbergh and his cast’s cool confidence.

You may come away from “Side Effects” calling it a potboiler, but there are fascinating themes throughout. In addition to the “Contagion”-like “this could really happen” fear-mongering about psychological pharmaceuticals, sure to be the basis of most press-tour talking points, there are delicious details about the oblique nature of truth. On a more surface level there’s how psychiatric science will always have a great deal of mystery (no one REALLY knows why electro-shock therapy does what it does), but the film gets heavy, man, and anyone who thinks the revelations of the script’s ending are a cop-out should be referred directly back to the script.


Side Effects opens the door to a fascinating dialectic between viewer and filmmaker. One that deals with a complex and far-reaching issue of our day, before it slams that door shut in favor of a paint-by-numbers game of cat-and-mouse between Mara and Law's characters. If feels as though Burns got roughly half-way through a unique and fascinating tale, realized that there was no easy or pat conclusion to be had, and decided to simply lift and co-opt a fully fleshed-out storyline from a classic thriller. The hope, it would seem, is that the setting shift to the far reaching universe of modern psychological medicine would inherently create something fresh and engaging.

(Special thanks to Walter Reade Theater manager Nikkia Moulterie for taking time out to provide desperately needed last minute tech triage).

This article is related to: Reviews, Side Effects, Steven Soderbergh, Steven Soderbergh, Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Interviews, Interviews, Interviews, Interviews , Reviews, Reviews

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.