Side Effects an edgy thriller

The first clue comes in the opening shot of Side Effects - a slow, measured zoom into a window of a large apartment building that recalls such horror classics as Rosemary's Baby and Psycho.

"I was kind of riffing on a couple of different movies there," says Steven Soderbergh, who directed Side Effects.

"But what drove it was the idea of something happening inside one of those apartments. When you look out over a landscape, you get overwhelmed by how many elements and buildings are competing for your attention, and little do you know that behind one of those little windows, something terrible could be happening. And I also wanted to bookend it with the last shot in the film. They match up nicely."

Terrible things do happen in Side Effects. But this is the kind of movie packed with so many plot twists and surprises that knowing too much in advance will ruin the fun (even the TV spots and trailers have been carefully edited to avoid spoiling anything).

The basic premise is simple: A young woman named Emily (Rooney Mara) falls into a deep depression after her husband (Channing Tatum) is released from prison after serving time for insider trading. For help, she turns to a psychiatrist (Jude Law), who takes the advice of Emily's previous doctor (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and puts Emily on an anti-anxiety medication that has just hit the market.

But the medicine has unforeseen side effects. Soderbergh says what happens next was inspired by the slick, A-list thrillers Hollywood cranked out in the 1980s.

"They used to make these movies pretty regularly and pretty well," he says. "Jagged Edge, Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct - there were a lot of good ones. And then they just stopped making them. I don't know what happened to that genre. It just kind of disappeared."

Soderbergh uses a light directorial touch in Side Effects - this is, first and foremost, an entertainment - but its subject matter is rooted in reality and research.

The cases mentioned in the film in which people were exonerated of a crime because medications gave them an alibi are true. But the filmmakers used their research as a foundation for a thriller - not an expose - that gets crazier and more unpredictable with every turn.

"What we wanted to create was a roller-coaster ride, but one that took place in a realistic landscape," screenwriter Scott Z Burns says.

Soderbergh says that because of the wild nature of the script he needed to use a cool, naturalistic style that makes everything seem plausible.

"I had to keep in mind that all the choices I was making - how I was shooting, how I was pitching the performances - were reverse-engineering from where the movie was going to land.

"I wanted to make sure the viewer would be in the right emotional space at the end of the movie, because this film morphs in a couple of different ways.

"It starts off as Movie A, then it turns into Movie B, then it turns into Movie C." 

Side Effects is released on February 28.


Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones in Steven Soderbergh's psychological thriller Side Effects.

Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones in Steven Soderbergh's psychological thriller Side Effects.


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