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Side Effects

Rooney MaraI disagree with Peter Bradshaw, Side Effects is not “Brilliant”.

The film begins as a biopic of a young woman riddled with mental health problems, whose initial euphoria on the release of her husband spirals into despair as she becomes increasingly depressed and medication dependent.

Her psychiatrist Dr Jonathan Banks, acted by Jude Law, agrees to prescribe Emily a clinical drug trial for handsome perks. The side effects worsen her condition and induce bizarre behaviour. The horror scenes add shock appeal and side-views of actress Rooney Mara’s gaunt cheek bones are reminiscent of frames of Mia Farrow in  Rosemary’s Baby.  Bank’s marital tension fuelled by pressure to earn well while his wife in unemployed is twinned with his patient’s mental tension, and this builds the suspense. Thus the story arc along with an exploration of the ethical dilemmas faced by psychiatrists when Big Pharma administer the golden handcuffs had one such as  me, interested in mental health, utterly hooked.

Then mid way through the film, there’s  a genre-bending about-turn as it slides into a noir thriller. Adversely the earlier pace and suspense is lost and replaced with clunky incongruity and comedic disbelief. Characters you grew to like and care for in the first half turn into monsters and new characters like psychiatrist Dr Victoria Siebert played by Catherine Zeeta-Jones are pure caricature.  In Catherine’s case:  Betty Boop. Her sultry pout set against Jude Law’s plaintive poise is ridiculous.

The film does not satisfy and nor does the sum of its two parts. On a positive note, I agree with Bradshaw that Emily’s distorted reflection in the mirrored wall of the cocktail bar is one of the most disturbing scenes of the film and all the better for it. Perhaps it’s a homage to the similar shocker in Peeping Tom?


2 thoughts on “Side Effects

  1. I think I understand your point of view. I just saw this movie last night, and my first impression during the first half of the movie was about how dangerous and tricky psychiatric meds can be and the liability that psychiatrist are forced to face (being a mental health counselor myself, this is intriguing). But then when the true intentions are revealed halfway the movie, the plot seems to change from psychiatric ethical dilemmas to simply a typical crime based movie. A little bit of disappointment, but definitely a shocker.

    Posted by Noel | October 6, 2013, 4:54 pm

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