Saturday, 9 March 2013


Steven Soderbergh is not a wasteful director. He's not going to give you time to reign your disbelief in. Once Side Effects has finished, you may realise you've been suspending it all this time without even noticing. But think of it from writer Scott Burns' perspective. He has worked from the end, constructing the plot as his characters have, building detail upon detail, deception upon deception. It may seem implausible from one end, but from the other, these are not extraordinary events. They're reasonable events stemmed from an extraordinary but thoroughly believable root. We're following alongside one specific lead character, learning as they learn, but I won't tell you which. It all gets wrapped up too neatly in the end, though. The final shot is cool, but Soderbergh and Burns draw their winners and losers in black and white, when I can't imagine how anyone could emerge from such a situation either wholly advantageously, or the opposite. For a film that makes no particular comment on anything beyond its own frame of vision, Side Effects is actually full of subtle details which betray Soderbergh's skill as a filmmaker, and Burns' as a writer - this is a tale of three controlling individuals, manipulating those around them, and, more importantly, the systems at their disposal. Note the pensive Rooney Mara, cerebral, her words just foils to distract people from the vast array of thoughts flickering through her mind. Note the frantic Jude Law, always playing catch-up with the girls, floundering, overly verbose, brutish in his methods of manipulation, yet less ruthless than the others. But he knows the systems best of all, if not the people. These are the details which make each shot and scene work. You'll barely notice them, if at all, because you're not supposed to. And because Steven Soderbergh won't even give you the time to notice them.