I meant to get this review up Friday to coincide with the release, but I did not. Mea culpa.
Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay Side Effects is that immediately after it was over I wanted to see it again. I barely feel comfortable reviewing it having only seen it once, and it’s been a long time since I’ve had that feeling. In movies, as in life, it’s rare to actually be treated like an adult these days (…he said as he wrote on his blog wearing nothing but Cheetos crumbs and underpants in the middle of the day). We’re so used to every plot point and expository story nugget being slammed into our numbed brains with a fungo bat, that when a movie actually requires careful attention to detail and deductive reasoning, suddenly we feel ill-equipped. We find ourselves spitting out mouthfuls of slobbery milk duds to ask our seat mates what the hell just happened. (That’s right, “we,” just go with me here). I’m saying, Side Effects is like that, the rare movie that treats us Milk Dud eaters like we’re smarter than we are.
I don’t mean Side Effects is confusing in the way that Chris Nolan movies are confusing, where relentless, deliberate subterfuge is the dominant narrative device. Side Effects can be hard to follow, but it doesn’t feel like Soderbergh trying to confuse you. It feels more like he’s just a step ahead of us and he’s a little too excited to tell what comes next to play catch up. It’s an honest thriller. You follow along, and then surprising things happen, in such a way that at the time it seems so out of left field that it might take half a scene to catch up. There’s a way to confuse the audience in a way that feels sloppy, and a way to confuse us in a way that’s intriguing. Side Effects does the latter, like some of Eminem’s old singles, where he’d say something that almost sounded like complete gibberish, but you’d rewind or hear it a couple times and go, holy shit, all of that actually made sense. It wasn’t just a cheap trick. Sadly, I don’t get to rewind at movie screenings, a fact that security has been over with me in great detail, but it seems important that I’d want to.