Steven Soderbergh Blogathon-Day 5
Following his excellent take on Soderbergh’s Haywire , Niles Schwartz this time looks at his other thriller, Side Effects, starring Jude Law, Catherine Zeta Jones and Rooney Mara. For me the best part about Niles, is that his reviews are not merely just dry analysis he intimately explores the mind of the director, connecting it to the real world, the director’s earlier work. Like his earlier post on Haywire, Niles here again explores Soderbergh’s previous work, and brings up the issue of how his post 2008 movies, tie in with the feeling of depression, loss, following the Wall Street bust. He also explores how Soderbergh has traveled a long way from his indie debut Sex, Lies and Videotape to Side Effects, not just technically, but also theme and narrative wise. In his own words.
And now Soderbergh is bidding us farewell, retiring from cinema with the twisty, gorgeous, and deliriously entertaining thriller Side Effects, a puzzling big-screen bookend (an HBO Liberace movie is still on the way) reminding viewers how film has changed over Soderbergh’s curious trajectory. He’s been working in a medium that’s evolved from analog to digital, and where independence, along with ambiguity, has been safely quarantined to its special, miniature play-pin behind the amusement park of Hollywood blockbusting. The changes aren’t only apparent in the crisp Red camera picture when contrasted to the 1989 celluloid stock of cinematographer Walt Lloyd (and Graham’s videotape in Sex, Lies, and Videotape), but in a story where therapeutic talking cures are replaced by immediate pharmaceutical modification.
“Being happy isn’t all that great,” Ann says to her therapist at the beginning of Sex, Lies, and Videotape. She’s living a dull and kept existence while her husband is being promoted in his law firm (and having an affair with Ann’s sister). Ann is endlessly curious about the world, which may be the source of her anxieties, being that her focus is on problems over which she has no control. For instance: where does all the garbage go? Ann is so mindful of her surroundings that she can’t even masturbate without wondering if her dead grandfather is watching her. Her life is shit, “nothing what I thought it was,” she eventually realizes, but she’s a character who grows in the discourse with people surrounding her. Compare Ann to Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) in Side Effects, another dutiful housewife with a dopey husband, Martin (Channing Tatum). She may be suffering from depression — or she may not be. A suicide attempt lands Emily in the care of Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), a psychiatrist who’s quick to prescribe various anti-depressants. These characters, 25 years after Soderbergh’s first film, struggle to think outside of their selfish bubbles.