Emily (Rooney Mara, whose bipolar mood swings in Side Effects show that her starring turn in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo wasn't just a fluke) is a young wife who is depressed and decides she needs to see a shrink after a momentary lapse of judgement leaves her in the hospital. Dr. Banks (Jude Law), takes an interest in Emily, either for her "wounded bird" personality or her interesting situation. Emily's husband (portrayed by a little-more-useless Channing Tatum, unlike in Magic Mike) has just been released from prison--for insider trading--and just wants Emily to get over her depression episodes and have things back the way they were when the couple was first married, madly in love. Emily, who has tried and changed dozens of anti anxiety/depression medications (Prozac, Zoloft, etc.), gets convinced by Dr. Banks to try Ablixa, the new and special thing on the pharmaceutical scene--he's getting paid $50,000 by the drug company to be part of the testing process.
Speaking of anxiety, Side Effects is the type of film that causes just that, and it's mainly due to Soderbergh's excellent direction--full of claustrophobic closeups, his signature digital video shooting techniques, quick flashes of surprising (sometimes violent) outcomes, and eerie music, it's a film that almost warrants a Prozac popping just to not break out into a sweat. When Emily begins taking Ablixa, abnormal things begin to happen: intense sex, happiness, sleepwalking, and a singular violent act that propels the film into its sharp-turned final third that is typically intense. Did Dr. Banks know some of the terrible side effects of this new drug Ablixa? Are certain people in cahoots with the pharmaceutical company? How real are Emily's depressive states? All questions with (mostly) unpredictable answers.
This isn't some big statement on the condition or circumstances of our pill-filled world, specifically America--the country where every other person you meet is on some sort of pharmaceutical that supposedly makes their life better. But it does enough the raise a few questions about the ethics of prescribing medication with atrocious side effects and living life in a zombie-like haze for no real reason. Side Effects is really a pretty simple film: a tight thriller that is good winter entertainment. It's entertaining, and all you need is a mild suspension of disbelief and a free evening to witness Soderbergh's last entry on a long list of quality films. (B+)