Side Effects is a stylish hit

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Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Starring Rooney Mara and Jude Law. Rated 14A.

Now you can forget worrying about sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, uneven heartbeat, and decreased sex drive—more than usual, I mean. Steven Soderbergh’s coolly devious psychological thriller Side Effects is here to remind you that one can have much worse reactions to one’s prescription pharmaceuticals. Well, besides the dreaded dry mouth.

Word: Soderbergh has been threatening to retire from moviemaking, but now the guy who’s done everything from indies to Ocean’s, with porn star Sasha Grey, uh, in between, means it. Side Effects is, apparently, Soderbergh’s last film before he runs away to become a not-starving artist. May we stop him? His experimental “misses” are more interesting and stylish than many people’s hits.

This stylish hit is Soderbergh doing modern Manhattan Hitchcock, with antidepressants. Martin (Channing Tatum) is a Wall Street type just out of the slammer after four years for insider trading. Despite getting to sleep with Channing Tatum, Martin’s wife, Emily (Rooney Mara), lands in hospital after a seeming suicide attempt and into the care of psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law).

So many twisted, tense things happen after this that you’ll probably flush your own meds down the toilet, from whence they’ll eventually result in some really spaced-out fish.

Soderbergh and writer Scott Z. Burns (his Contagion collaborator) have an excellent time with the morally messed-up relationship between doctors and the pharmaceutical industry. Emily’s medical-trials drug, “Ablixa”, has hidden bonuses that not everybody’s noting. Playing her, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’s scarily talented Mara exudes a delicious unreadability. And all the actors (including Catherine Zeta-Jones as Emily’s other psychiatrist, yep) nimbly embody the cunning, paranoia, wickedness, and lust that we all share and dig about ourselves.

Thanks, Steven. We’re just happily working this around in our head, lying back on the pillow, and lighting up a smoke.

Watch the trailer for Side Effects.
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