Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Side Effects

If it weren’t for my husband, I would hardly ever see a movie. Today I was planning to clear off and clean the kitchen counters, when my husband asked, “Do you want to go see a movie?” Let’s see, housework or movie. Such a tough choice.

The movie he had in mind was Side Effects, billed as a psychological thriller. It is probably just as well  that I did not know that Channing Tatum was in it, given that I was not terribly impressed by the last movie I saw him in.

Side Effects is a much better product. It turns out Tatum can act after all, when he has a decent script to work with. 

Tatum plays Martin Taylor, a man who is about to get out of prison where he has served four years for insider trading. We first meet his wife Emily (Rooney Mara) when she goes to visit him in prison and they discuss impending release. Emily seems happy that he is getting out, but once he comes home, it becomes apparent that she is struggling. One day she rams her car into the wall of a parking garage. 

She survives the wreck, but because the police suspect a suicide attempt, she is seen by a psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Banks, played by Jude Law. He wants to admit her to the hospital for a few days, but she convinces him her husband needs her at home and that she will see Dr. Banks as an outpatient. In the course of the conversation, she reveals that she has been treated for depression in the past, after her husband’s crime and conviction led to legal, financial, social and medical consequences for Emily. Once home, Martin tries to convince her that he will get them back to where they were, but his new business plans involve a move to Houston rather than back to Connecticut as she had hoped.

Dr. Banks tries Emily on conventional drug treatments for depression, but she finds the side effects too disagreeable. When Emily comes too close to the edge of a subway platform, she runs to Dr. Banks in a panic, interrupting his conversation with his wife, who herself is facing a difficult job interview and needs his support. 

In consultation with her former therapist (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones), Banks prescribes a new drug. Emily is pleased by the results, but Martin notices that she is sleep walking and becomes concerned. Emily resists the suggestion that she change medications again, so Dr. Banks prescribes some other medications to help control the sleep walking.

Shortly thereafter, Emily commits a crime and claims she has no memory of it. With support from Dr. Banks, she is declared not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a forensic hospital until she is deemed fit for release.

While this seems like the best possible outcome for Emily, for Dr. Banks, things take a downward turn. His handling of Emily’s case is investigated. When reporters begin following him to work, his partners ask him to take his practice elsewhere. He is fired from his role as a consultant in a study for an anti-anxiety drug. Allegations about a past patient surface, making his wife wonder if there were aspects of his treatment of Emily that were less than professional. His reaction to these events lead his family and friends to wonder about his own mental stability.

After seeing a series of movies that had what I considered an excess of story telling gimmicks, I found Side Effects a refreshing change. While it was hard to see where the movie was going at first, in the end there wasn’t anything that I felt could have been left out. 

I read on IMDB that Lindsay Lohan had been considered for the role of Emily. Despite all of the turmoil of her recent life, I still see Lohan as the twins of Parent Trap, and can’t imagine her giving the performance that Rooney Mara does. Catherine Zeta-Jones is her competent self in the role of Dr. Victoria Siebert. Even Ann Dowd in a small but significant role as Martin’s mother is memorable.

I count Side Effects as one of my husband’s better choices. Much better than cleaning the kitchen.

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