Tag Archives: drugs

Review – Side Effects (15) [2013]

Side Effects - title banner

Star Rating: 4/5

Director:

  • Steven Soderbergh – Traffic, Contagion, Behind the Candelabra

Cast:

  • Rooney Mara – A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Social Network, Her
  • Channing Tatum – The Eagle,White House Down21 & 22 Jump Street
  • Jude Law – The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Contagion, Dom Hemingway
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones – Traffic, Playing For Keeps, Red II
  • Vinessa Shaw – The Hills Have Eyes, 3:10 to Yuma, Siren
  • James Martinez – Gravity, The Sessions, An Artist’s Emblem

Music Composer:

Before taking medication, one has an idea that for all the positives of the medicine there is likely to be negative implications. These are better known as side effects, and doctors should always make their patients aware of them for reasons of liability. Side Effects, Steven Soderbergh’s second medical thriller in the space of eighteen months, soundly illustrates some of medicines’ many snags as well as the trouble doctors could find themselves in if they don’t make their patients aware of them.

Martin (Channing Tatum) and Emily (Rooney Mara) looking like an aesthetically perfect couple, dressed smartly at a friend's party.

Martin (Channing Tatum) and Emily (Rooney Mara) looking like an aesthetically perfect couple, dressed smartly at a friend’s party.

Side Effects more or less begins with Martin (Channing Tatum) coming out of prison to be reunited with his wife, Emily (Rooney Mara). Emily, however, seemingly suffers from depression and other self-esteem issues, and appears unable to cope with life. So, after attempting suicide, she meets Dr. John Banks (Jude Law), who prescribes her a series of drugs to make her feel better, after consulting with Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Emily’s previous doctor.

The drugs work initially for Emily. But then the side effects kick in. And with consequences for Emily, Martin and Dr. Banks.

Side Effects is a slow-paced medical thriller that is mysterious and gripping for its apt 106 minute running time. Although the plot has several contrived moments, all of these are explained reasonably well, so the film does not feel like a patch-work for lazy script-writing. What’s more, the film has a generally unsettling ambience and leads to an unexpected conclusion that is most welcome.

Dr. John Banks (Jude Law) chewing his breakfast, wondering how his world has turned upside down due to Emily's reaction to the drugs he prescribed her.

Dr. John Banks (Jude Law) chewing his breakfast, wondering how his world has turned upside down due to Emily’s reaction to the drugs he prescribed her.

In part, the disquieting atmosphere of Side Effects is due to the strange, yet thought-provoking music that is virtually on tape-loop during the movie. The other reason is due to good dialogue and acting, not least from Rooney Mara in the lead role. Invariably, her character seems to be permanently on a medically-prescribed drug or suffering from a drug’s drawback; in particular, the latter, and Mara plays it all troublingly well.

Surprisingly, Jude Law, as the doctor in danger of losing his career, performs decently too. He might show little compassion toward his wife, Deirdre (Vinessa Shaw), and son, but Law is certainly considerably better here than he is in (the mind-numbing) The Holiday and in Contagion, wherein he adopts a laughable Australian accent. (As if anyone would believe that Jude Law were Australian!)

The beautilful and manipulative, Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), unaware that someone is looking at her through the window.

The beautilful and manipulative, Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), unaware that someone is looking at her through the window.

Channing Tatum, in his comfort-zone as the handsome and charming husband, gives a standard demonstration of his acting skills, while Catherine Zeta-Jones, as arguably the villain of the movie, is just as cunning and classily appealing as she was a decade ago in Intolerable Cruelty.

Thus, Side Effects is an enjoyable film that is likely to take viewers by surprise. Granted, it has plot conveniences, yet one is likely to forgive the movie for these as the storyline is intelligent and keeps audiences in suspense. Furthermore, one is likely to be more wary of the downside of certain medications after watching the film; and doctors, if they did not already, are likely to become paranoid about being sued by their patients for prescribing them medications with foreseeable and unforeseeable side effects.

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Review – Limitless (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 3.5/5

It is believed that human beings only use ten to twenty-five per cent of their brainpower most of the time. After hearing this, it is natural for people to contemplate what they might be able to achieve if they could access a hundred per cent of their mind’s capabilities. Well, Limitless gives us a hint of what it could be like and it makes for pleasant viewing.

Eddie Morra, left, looking down and out, is offered the 'limitless pill' by his ex-wife's brother.

The movie is centred on Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper – He’s Just Not That Into You, The Hangover, The A-Team), a messy and disorganized ‘wannabe’ author who has yet to write a word of his novel. His partner, Lily (Abbie Cornish – Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, Sucker Punch), has just left him because she sees no future with him.

With his life going nowhere, Eddie bumps into his ex-wife’s brother, Vernon (Johnny Whitworth – Valentine, 3:10 To Yuma, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance). After buying him a bear in the middle of the day, Vernon offers Eddie a pill that will revitalise him. Reluctantly, Eddie swallows it giving him the clarity of thought and energy that he has lacked his whole life. With this pill, no worldly ambition is beyond him. The problem for Eddie is what happens when his supply runs out and what will others do to have his key to success.

The plot for Limitless is simple to follow, entertaining and strokes one’s ego nicely.

It is not an especially thought-provoking film and several of the side-stories are dropped before they’ve been concluded. This naturally leaves a few things unanswered by the end; but as they are not major parts to the movie, it is easy for viewers to forget that these scenes even took place.

Moreover, things go so well for Eddie that one cannot help but remind oneself that life is full of ups and downs; not just ups. Limitless also doesn’t give much attention to the negative effects of taking the ‘limitless pill’ or drugs unlike, for example, Requiem For A Dream. This is a pity as it would have added a dimension to the film that is sorely lacking.

Since it does not tackle the more serious side of drug addiction, the characters do not have depth. This is a shame; especially for Bradley Cooper. He plays well as a low-life loser and a high-flying, smooth-talking, money making machine. It would have been interesting to see how he would have faired if he’d have been given the opportunity to show us the downside of taking this drug.

Eddie, looking happy with how life has panned out for him since taking the pill, being intimate with his girlfriend, Lily, played by Abbie Cornish.

No other character in the film is given enough time or the script to stamp their mark. In effect, Abbie Cornish, Robert de Niro (Goodfellas, Stardust, Meet The Parents) and Andrew Howard (Transformers II: Rise of the Fallen, Revolver, I Spit On Your Grave) are little more than mere diversions to the story of Eddie Morra’s meteoric rise. This though does not take away much from the film. It is unlikely that they’d have made a significant difference to the movie if they’d have been given more of a role.

The acting on the whole is better than the choreography. The director, Neil Burger (The Illusionist, The Lucky Ones), has not shot the film brilliantly. Some of the scenes are quite dizzying, whilst others do not flow well together. Although this can be disorientating for the audience at times, it does not make the movie hard to watch or undermine its entertainment value.

Ultimately, Limitless is an enjoyable film that enables viewers to switch off as they watch it. It is not a masterpiece and has a handful of minor flaws. Nevertheless, it leaves its audience satisfied, plus makes them think in jest what they could be like if they were able to use their mind to its full potential.

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