In 2000, Steven Soderbergh directed Traffic, a tense and hard-hitting drama loosely based on a British miniseries about the global dimensions of drug trafficking. Stephen Gaghan's multidimentional screenplay, which garnered him an Oscar, tells three interweaving stories about the vast use of mood-altering substances and their invasion of every aspect of American life. More than any book, panel discussion, or initiative from Washington, D.C., Traffic shows how there is no quick fix for this societal problem.
Now in Side Effects, Soderbergh has created a mesmerizing thriller set in the ominous and mysterious world of Big Pharma where drugs of all types (many with scary side-effects) are sold to rekindle your inner fire, to conquer fatigue, and to take the edge off stress. This is a very profitable business with single corporations delivering an annual profit of $16 billion dollars to their happy shareholders. But lawsuits against drug companies for paying kickbacks to doctors and psychiatrists, illegal marketing, and other criminal activity are becoming more and more common. Equally disconcerting is the growing number of patients taking antidepressants and becoming violent as a side-effect.
In this drama Emily (Rooney Mara) is a beautiful young woman whose life has collapsed after her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) was caught for insider trading and sent to prison for four years. They moved to an an apartment in Manhattan after losing their fancy Connecticut house and affluent life-style. When he is released from prison, Martin is distressed to find that his wife is severely depressed.
After driving her car into a parking garage wall in an attempted suicide, Emily begins seeing Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), an up-and-coming psychiatrist who puts her on a regimen of anti-depressants. Jonathan needs more cash to pay for his son's private school so he agrees to serve as a "consultant" to a large pharmaceutical company for $50,000 a year. Meanwhile, Emily has trouble with the antidepressants and still seems to be suicidal. Jonathan seeks counsel from Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Emily's former therapist who seems to know more than she is willing to reveal.
The fascinating and ethically-charged world of Big Pharma provides Side Effects with its creative momentum and abundant surprises. The top-drawer performances by Jude Law and Rooney Mara are nuanced and compelling as they lead us through one maze after another. Side Effects is the kind of movie you want to see again in order to savor all the subtle moods and details.
Special features on the DVD include: "Behind the Scenes of Side Effects"; an Ablixa commercial; and an Intenin commercial.