WARNING: This post contains mild spoilers for the movie Side Effects.
While not entirely perfect, I thought this movie wasn’t that bad. In fact, I think it deserves a good bit of the attention its been receiving.
For one thing, it’s got a bit of The Usual Suspects (1995)/Memento (2000)-type element to it. Meaning, just when you think you have it, you find out that you really don’t.
I don’t know if it was because I didn’t pay attention too deeply to the trailers, but I was completely fooled walking in to the theater, because I thought for sure that the focus of the movie would be solely on Channing Tatum and Rooney Mara. Boy was I wrong. Tatum was only sort of a main character for maybe the first half of the movie. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I certainly wasn’t expecting Jude Law to take center stage. In fact, if anything, I thought it was going to be Tatum going after Law for a mistake his character made. Instead, it’s actually Law’s character that ends up doing all the chasing.
The movie wasn’t entirely predictable, but I thought some of the twists in the plot were a little random or unbelievable. I wasn’t completely sold on the reasons for Mara’s character’s revenge, and the whole love affair bit I feel like was just short of thrown in there. Maybe it was for shock value, or maybe it was Hollywood trying to prove that they aren’t constricted by conservative ideals, or perhaps it was put in there “just because.” I have no idea, but in any event it just didn’t seem necessary in this case. While we’re talking about relationships, I also thought it was pretty heartless of the wife of Law’s character, who heavily depends on him for support when she’s going through a rough time, but the second it seems like he’s going through some trouble himself, she just kind of leaves him hanging.
Moving on, I will say that for the first half of the movie things seem a little draggy, mostly because the way things are filmed, the audience is kind of placed in Mara’s character’s shoes. If you don’t know what it feels like to be depressed, and I mean really, really depressed, then I guarantee you’ll at least get a vague sense of it after watching the first half of the film. I thought Mara did a superb job in her acting here. Depending on the type of person you are and how you react to people that are depressed or psychiatric patients, you’ll either feel for her or won’t be able to stand her character.
When the first plot twist occurs though, it kind of more than makes up for the torture the movie puts you through in the beginning. After that point, things definitely start to get interesting and despite myself I became rather invested fairly quickly. It’s kind of like when you’re reading a novel and things just pick up and you know you’re not going to be able to put the book down, hanging on to every last word. I was definitely more alert for the second half of the movie than I was for the first half, and because of that I was also more forgiving whenever a scene cropped up that didn’t really flow that well or if there was any element to the story that kind of fell short of expectations and didn’t work as nicely.
FINAL VERDICT: B+
It hasn’t become one of my favorite movies, but I can’t deny that this was a solid effort. Tatum’s acting wasn’t at his best here, at least I didn’t think so, but he didn’t necessarily bomb the part. Mara’s acting at times reminded me of her role as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), but I think she still did well in this role. Zeta-Jones, on the other hand, completely got on my nerves. As for Law, I thought he was excellent here.
This isn’t a movie I can see myself watching again or buying for my DVD shelf, but positive critic reviews aside (since I often disagree with those anyway), I can still see many others enjoying this movie. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend giving it a shot. Whether you choose to watch it in theaters or on DVD is, of course, your call.