After a quarter century of film directing, Steven Soderbergh’s has chosen “Side Effects” as his alleged theatrical swan song. Teaming up once again with screenwriter Scott Z. Burns (“Contagion,” “The Informant!”), he shot and edited the film himself under assumed names. With that pedigree and level of control, I would surmise that Soderbergh made exactly the film he wanted to make. That’s why I’m so puzzled by the tonal shift that occurs right in the middle of what seemed to be a biting yet candid exploration of the anti-depressant industry. There’s giving your audience twists and turns and then there’s pulling the rug out from under them. At the end of the day, it’s Soderbergh’s prerogative. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
To be fair, the film’s opening is a sign of things to come. After an uncomfortably long wide shot that eventually zooms into an apartment window and finally finds a set of bloody footprints, I can’t say he didn’t warn me. But the film immediately jumps back in time three months to a story that is certainly dramatic, but not conspicuously noirish. Our protagonist is Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), a frail, beguiling girl who puts on a happy face to welcome her husband home on the day of his release from prison. Martin (Channing Tatum) served four years for insider trading and his little mistake cost his family the lush life to which they had become accustomed…
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