Saturday, June 1, 2013

When medicine goes bad

That's what Side Effects (2013) is about. Clever, no? Wait for it.
Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) plays a young woman, who's been visiting her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) in jail for the past four years. He is about to be released. It is exciting to see Tatum in a non-conventional role (for him, at least) different than that of (merely) a love interest, a stripper or a buffy eye-candy. But we'll get to that later.
Emily and Martin have been married for five years. It isn't difficult to do the math and realize they had only been married for a year when he was arrested and imprisoned for insider trading. When he gets out, it's more than obvious that the young couple isn't used to being together. Emily begins to show signs of depression and when she gets into an accident that might not really have been an accident, she is called to visit a psychiatrist, dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law). He prescribes Emily anti-depressants and changes them around when she doesn't like the side effects they give her. All that until they find a medicine that seems to be working well. They only seem to have one side effect that Emily records of experiencing and since it isn't that terrible, they decide to stick to this medicine. But then one night changes everything. What Emily does is horrifying and the worst part is she cannot remember anything. She is arrested and put on trial, her psychiatrist's life unravels and as the poor depressed girl is trying to realize what has happened with her life, the pharmaceutical agendas come into question. The development of the story that deals with how sick or ill mind operates is more than astounding. Is she guilty? Should she be responsible for her actions? Should she pay for them? Or is she just a victim of pharmaceutical lobbyists?
"I loved everything about him, his hands, the way he smells. He swept me off
his feet. I told him I would wait for him. I wanted to have a life with my husband."
The movie is not very fast-paced, if anything, it's slow until it gets way into the second half. That's where you start being pushed around and you realize you're second-guessing every event and person in this story. Rooney Mara has drawn attention as the dark Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Before 2010 barely anyone knew who she was but when she started shooting the Hollywood version of Stieg Larsson's cult novel and photos of her transformation started popping up, the world was amazed. And suffice it to say she will not be one to sink into comfortable roles of little darlings, girls next door or romantic interests of buffy handsome men. Even if they are Channing Tatum. Her portrayal of the suffering Emily who wants nothing more, than to resume her beautiful marriage to the man who swept her off her feet is astounding. To try and understand and get an inkling of what goes on inside a sick mind is a very, very intriguing way of drawing a viewer in. And as clear and simple as the verdict and event that led to it, seem, there is something that seems more than a little off. About Martin, about Emily, about Emily's medical history and her first psychiatrist, dr. Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones). But what is it and how does the girl who seems to have lost five years of her life fit into it? Even when that question is answered and when you are confronted with the result that comes from the answer (and stirs up everything else), the ending will still leave you reeling, which is what I love. There aren't many movies that manage that but if they do, everything else seems forgotten.
Not to say that this movie is perfect, not by any chance. If I wasn't so easily intrigued by mind, its problems and twists, I probably wouldn't make it past the first half of the movie. But I'm glad I did because this is the type of movies that I miss. Psychological thrillers that not only promise but also - deliver.

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