a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

I liked “Side Effects” the new, very serious, gripping psychological thriller starring Rooney Mara and Jude Law and featuring Ann Dowd as – wait for it- Channing Tatum’s mother!

Very fine acting work by all concerned and directed within a clinical inch of its’ life by Steven Soderbergh.

It’s sort of a medical thriller. And is all about pills, pills, pills. And this film examines, for perhaps the first time, just what the Side Effects of taking so much prescribed medication can be in our over-medicated society.

But who will go to see this very intelligent, thoughtful, dark drama/thriller? Who is the audience for this?This is a film about depression.

This is also the first leading film role for Rooney Mara away from and after “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” and although that film established Rooney Mara as a star-in-the-making and got her an Oscar nomination, “Side Effects” will prove whether or not she really can open a film.

Does she have a following? Can she build up one?

She’s very, very good in this film, showing all the dark sides imaginable of her complex character and I found her compelling to watch. And Jude Law, who seems to be reveling in letting his good looks go, is very fine as the doctor-in-charge of Mara, his unruly and complicated patient.

It’s a great role for an actress, and there are so few of them. If this were opening later in the year, instead of the bone-grave-yard for films of January/February, I would think Mara would again be a candidate for a nomination.

But with a year to go til the next Oscar round-up, “Side Effects” has a long, long way to travel before Mara gets into the winner’s circle ~ AGAIN.

Ann Dowd also scores in this, too, in the minor role of a distraught, loving mother. I wish the part were larger, but she’s throughout the movie and she’s fine, fine, fine. With affectionate scenes and crying scenes and even a violent slapping scene. I only wish there were more of her.

There is more than enough of Katherine Zeta-Jones as Mara’s shrink previous to Law. Mara’s character, like Lisbeth Salander, seems to have been in therapy all her life.
And Zeta-Jones is merely serviceable.

But it has to be said that David Fincher’s prediction to Mara, as he was casting her, that an iconic role like Lisbeth Salander was going to throw a long, dark shadow over what ever else she did going forward in her acting career, and there are echoes and shades of Salander throughout “Side Effects.” Wrongful incarceration being main among them. However in “Side Effects” Mara is grappling with depression, all types of it. Whereas Lisbeth Salander, I don’t think was EVER depressed. Merely anti-social and ANGRY.

I think she’s as good as she could possibly be in this role under Steven Soderbergh’s astute, clinical direction, but as good as “Side Effects” is…it recalls how much better Steig Larsson’s millennium Trilogy was at this kind of thing. Soderberg’s washed-out bluish palette makes New York City look almost like Sweden in “Side Effects,” and just as depressing. I liked it. But not as much as I liked “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

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