Side Effects 2013 ★★½

This review reportedly contains spoilers.
I can handle the truth.

This review reportedly contains spoilers.


Las Vegas Weekly review. For people who thought Deathtrap was the height of sophistication.

This is nitpicking, given the general idiocy of the entire story, but for whom, apart from movie audiences in need of being misled, is Emily performing when she kills her husband? Why does she remain "in character" throughout? Just in case he survives? Why would she even allow for that possibility? Once he's collapsed onto the floor, why not finish him off for certain? It's not being videotaped. Nobody's gonna say "Well, it's credible that a sleepwalking person induced to kill by her meds would unconsciously stab her husband three times while he's standing, but I don't buy that she'd stab him several more times when he's prone on the ground." She's intentionally murdering him, and her defense involves temporary insanity caused by the pills (which, sure, let's concoct an evil-genius scheme predicated on something that, as the film itself admits, works in actual courtrooms less than 1% of the time it's attempted), so why doesn't she just fucking murder him rather than play-act the sleepwalking bit for the benefit of absolutely nobody?



  • Acting as she does is the best way to leave the most credible evidence trail for the case she and her accomplice want to build. For one thing.

  • As the 22nd greatest film critic of all time, I scoff at your...wait, what? Aw crap.

    Seriously, though, I guess I don't see how the evidence trail would differ were she...behaving less deceptively. (Putting it vaguely because I don't think comments are spoiler-protected.) Facial expressions don't leave evidence, unless there's a camera, which as far as we know there isn't. It just seems like a cheat to me. I understand why Burns wrote it that way—not showing the incident at all would be a giant red flag, and of course depicting it realistically gives the game away. But that's an inherent flaw in what to my mind is very gimmicky material.

  • Fair enough. I'd infer people who'd been planning the crime this long would perhaps dot their "i"s obsessively but I'm not even supposed to be talking about this movie anyway...

    As for the other thing, hey, buck up, we're BOTH behind a dead fellow whose last byline was on Bob Hope's obituary, which ran after the author died...

  • I think Jude Law's performance was the best part, with Mara a close second. I didn't leave feeling cheated, but I rarely do. I liked Prometheus for its sense of wonder and striking visuals even though the plot was ridiculous.

    But I was a bit puzzled at the end. It seemed to me that Banks had a vendetta against Emily, but I thought he weathered the attacks on his career and marriage with such sang froid that he would just leave Emily to her devices. Although possibly devoid of a conscience, she certainly wasn't a danger to anyone else. Were I him, I would have been mightily impressed by the depth of her cunning.

  • I imagine it's a lot easier, psychologically speaking, to kill your spouse if you can convince them (and, on some level, yourself) that you're not doing it intentionally. The look of betrayal on their face would be a pretty strong deterrent.

  • That explains what happens in the kitchen. It doesn't explain the zombie walk to the bedroom (or taking the risk of letting him bleed on the floor and possibly survive).

  • Good point. Forgot about that.

  • If Mara's character is going to sell the sleepwalking, and therefore, the Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity defense, she had to make it look perfect. Someone who is sleepwalking is not aware of the surroundings or actions, and most end up back in bed. Had she done anything else, the police would have detected some conscious behavior. This is portrayed in a split second when Mara's character is sitting on the chair being interviewed by the Detective. She has dried blood on the bottom of her feet. Had she not gone to bed immediately, one can assume that she would have tracked blood around the apartment, leaving a clear trail for the police to follow. There were large amounts of money in offshore accounts, to risk being convicted of intentional murder and not spending any of it. Also, it is clear she manipulated Zeta-Jones's character from the beginning and would have tried to take both shares of the money. I thought it was an excellent movie, with the drugs being a red herring obfuscating the underlying murder mystery.

  • I'm talking more about her facial expression than her actions. A person doing this in real life wouldn't be so contained; there's no need for her to be as she's not being observed. Except by a movie audience.

  • You explained why she had to keep pretending yourself. What if Tatum had survived, and she had been walking to the bedroom clearly awake? Instead of taking a single risk (that her husband could live), she would have been taking multiple risks by going on with her daily business.

  • Again, why would you plan it in a way where he might survive?

  • Mike, I think you're right that this thing has some standard-issue thriller problems, but why would that squash the film for you? The whole "no way an ACTUAL woman would act like that" complaint seems like the least interesting thing about this film (and film in general). It doesn't seem to make any greater stake to realism than something like PSYCHO, where Norman Bates couldn't have possibly sounded so much like a woman. You can poke a bunch of holes in SIDE EFFECTS, but that seems like a cheap reason to dismiss an otherwise exciting (in the second half) and crafty thriller.

  • The cheat I rant about in this "review" is just a passing observation—I couldn't elaborate in my proper review, so I did so here. My greater objection is that the movie isn't about anything apart from the mid-film reveal that it's a cheesy "erotic" thriller (minus any actual eroticism; Soderbergh is arguably the worst possible director for this material) rather than the sober-minded exposé it was posing as. It's a trashy movie with zero sense of fun. Bryant Frazer articulated my feelings well here.

  • Finally saw this. You could argue that the plot would (mostly) work even if [redacted] survived, though, couldn't you? His death is a (sorry) side effect, not the main goal. But I agree, it's a very misleading scene.

  • If he survives he gets half the money.

  • My only thought is that she was selling it to him. If she didn't have the zombie look on her face, he might try to defend himself resulting in those pesky defensive wounds that, as TV procedurals tell us, always leads to more questions.

    My personal minor quibble is why he wouldn't say "she insisted she stay on the meds" when everyone kept telling him, "you're the one that kept her on blah-blah-blah."

  • Not completely sure, but it seems to me like the film is building a juicy theme ( a system in which murders are not guilty, and doctors have no absolute control of the fate of the patients) until it refuses to tackle, turning it to noir. The odd thing is: even being kind of boring the first halve (but interesting conceptually), is the refusal the thing that makes the movie more playful. Overall, unbalanced, but I still liked.

  • Man, you pointing this out makes me doubt a film I already thought relied too heavily on its third act twist even more.

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