‘Side Effects’: The Reviews Are In!

Steven Soderbergh's swan song chills many critics to the bone, while leaving others scratching their heads.

Caution: viewing the film “Side Effects” might make you dizzy, anxious, and nostalgic for a time when Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh wasn’t about to retire from moviemaking.

Alas, Soderbergh’s swan song has indeed arrived. The filmmaker has declared “Side Effects,” in theaters now, as his final theatrical release. Luckily, according to most reviews of the new thriller, Soderbergh’s exit is a powerful one: “Side Effects” is receiving high marks for its twisting story, impactful social commentary and brilliant performances from the cast, particularly leads Jude Law and Rooney Mara. But not everyone is enamored with Soderbergh’s grand finale.

Read on for our review round-up of “Side Effects.”

The Story
“Emily (Rooney Mara), a waiflike young woman, visits her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), in jail — he’s serving time for insider trading — and awaits his return home but struggles with a depression that descends on her like, she says, ‘a poisonous fog.’ A British psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), tries to help, prescribing a new drug that ‘just makes it easier to be who you are.’ Things do not, to put it mildly, turn out well.” — Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times

Laying Down The Law
“Hopefully it’s not unfair to reveal that Jude Law, not Mara, is the true star of the film, playing the psychiatrist she turns to when she falls into depression after her husband’s return. He prescribes her the drug Ablixa for what seem like the right reasons, but it’s not hard to see the factors that might lead him astray — fancy lunch meetings with drug reps, offers of cash from pharmaceutical companies who want his seal of approval, and a wife (Vinessa Shaw) and kid who need his support. When the Ablixa causes some tragic, uh, side effects for Emily, Law’s Dr. Banks seems like a well-meaning guy blindsided by a bad drug… but, again, like those shiny corporate surfaces on New York City skyscrapers, what’s beneath it is a whole lot more complicated.” — Katey Rich, CinemaBlend.com

Soderbergh’s Swan Song
“Steven Soderbergh has announced that, at 50, this will be his last feature film. Well, that’s up to him. This one brings together threads from a lot of his work. Crime. Sex. Complicated yuppies. Smart people doing heedless things. Corruption in high places. Ablixa can even be seen as a science-fiction element. The Soderbergh film this one doesn’t draw from is ‘Che.’ Soderbergh came, he saw, he conquered, and now he’s moving on.” — Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times

Good Riddance
“‘Side Effects’ would have been a better movie if Mr. Soderbergh had taken the issue of the side effects of prescription drugs and placed it in a context that makes sense. But the murder case goes haywire and the double-crosses are so bewildering that all of the characters become ruthless villains victimizing each other in ways that defy rationalization. We live in a drug culture. There’s a pill that begins with every letter of the alphabet. If one doesn’t work, there’s always another pharmacologist who will set you up with another. And if that fails, every magazine advertises a new one. Such is the stuff of potential filmmaking that could be provocative and creepy. ‘Side Effects’ is merely preposterous. … Steven Soderbergh keeps giving interviews confessing that he is bored with movies and promising that ‘Side Effects’ will be his last one. Not a moment too soon, if you ask me.” — Rex Reed, New York Observer

The Final Word
“You may come away from ‘Side Effects’ calling it a potboiler, but there are fascinating themes throughout. In addition to the ‘Contagion’-like ‘this could really happen’ fear-mongering about psychological pharmaceuticals, sure to be the basis of most press-tour talking points, there are delicious details about the oblique nature of truth. On a more surface level there’s how psychiatric science will always have a great deal of mystery (no one REALLY knows why electro-shock therapy does what it does), but the film gets heavy, man, and anyone who thinks the revelations of the script’s ending are a cop-out should be referred directly back to the script.” — Jordan Hoffman, Film.com

Check out everything we’ve got on “Side Effects.”

Likes pizza, punch and pie. Dislikes the Chitauri. Find him on Twitter @roundhoward — like Ron Howard, but rounder.