Side Effects [Blu-Ray] Steven Soderbergh

Side Effects [Blu-Ray] Steven Soderbergh
8
As noted in part by screenwriter Scott Z. Burns during the brief, highly promotional featurettes included with the Blu-Ray of Side Effects, depression, whether emotional or economic, is treated with a Band-Aid approach in modern culture. While logical lulls after protracted periods of happiness or affluence are natural, considering that lows are necessary for highs to have any sort of context (and chasing a permanent high tends to lead to an overdose, both literally and metaphorically), there is a fear of lethargy, quiet and relaxation in a society that demands constant progression and productivity. It's an increasingly problematic norm that Burns and ever-unpredictable auteur Steven Soderbergh have tackled with this thinly veiled allegory, detailing the experience of a presumably functional and intelligent young woman, Emily (Rooney Mara), who suffers from depression after her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), is released from prison for involvement in insider trading. Unable and unwilling to demonstrate weakness in the face of social expectation — Martin is quick to jump back into the networking game at any cocktail function that will have him — she takes a quick-fix prescription from Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) after a failed suicide attempt in a parking garage. She struggles, having nausea at work and occasional suicide ideation at subway stations, which leads to changed prescriptions and the constant performance of a brave face until her doctor, having joined a new pharmaceutical trial for pay, and having consulted Emily's prior psychiatrist, Dr. Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), gives her Ablixa, noted as a modern day Effexor. This idea of bandaging emotionally complex issues with medication propels the first half of this cleverly executed and playfully deliberate adult thriller with a logical progression. The titular side effects give Emily an array of reactions to different drugs that involve sleepwalking and even violent acts. But, much like Burns and Soderbergh's previous collaborations (Contagion, The Informant!), there's more to this film than a mere superficial admonitory about the dangers of prescription drugs. Once the rug is pulled out from under the audience, the connections between economic and emotional depression, and irresponsibly conceived quick remedies, become clearer, while the plot takes an abundance of playful and twisty turns reminiscent of the thrillers conceived during more financially stable times. Throughout, we're reminded that past behaviours are the best predicators of present actions, acknowledging both the history of the central characters on screen and our greater cultural tendency to ignore past failures when it comes to instant gratification. It's a fascinating and astute observation that is treated without the pretence typically associated with potentially pedagogical and didactic material. Instead, Soderbergh delivers a highly stylized, coldly exact film that entertains while leaving something beyond mere plot mechanics to think about. Even the score captures the melding of mischievous manipulation and magical innocence with its simplistic, yet haunting chord progression and ambient sensibility. Very little is spoiled or revealed on the sparse and superficial special features, but there is a terribly unfunny anti-promotional voiceover on some Super 8 footage that Catherine Zeta-Jones filmed behind the scenes. (eOne)