Side Effects

Released on February 7, 2013 0 comments

Before we get to this weekend’s flick, a quick thought on the Superbowl. Like most who grew up in the Bay Area, we were hoping for a Niners victory, but unlike the blamers, we’re not gonna sit around and whine about the non-call we didn’t get on that final 4th and Goal. For the second straight game San Fran put themselves in a huge hole, this time falling behind by 22 points in the 3rd Quarter. How many times can the same team hope to have everything line up perfectly for them to stage an amazing comeback? The great 49er teams of Montana, Rice and Walsh would never have let themselves be run over for an entire half. We’re sorry they lost, but they didn’t deserve to win.

Quit crying and deal with it.

Moving on….

After ruining years of accumulated Street Cred by foisting “Magic Mike,” on us, we can understand talented Director Steven Soderbergh trying to intellectually rebound with a moderately serious movie for the pre-text set. Unfortunately, “Side Effects” is unlikely to wipe away any lingering bad taste.

We have no idea what possessed the guy who gave us “Traffic,” and the Oceans Series, to delve into the world of half-witted male strippers. We do know that “Magic Mike” made somewhere in the neighborhood of $113 million domestic, likely from an abundance of needy women who’ll line up for anything as long as it isn’t a salad bar.

Soderbergh has some sort of dude-crush on Channing Tatum, who goes from Chippendale to something way out of his league in “Side Effects,” – a semi-intelligent and passionate husband.

Good luck selling that.

Still, because it’s a Soderbergh production, several moderate hitters have lined up, including Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones. There’s also the Dragon Tattoo Girl, Rooney Mara, who emotes and slinks her way through this one as the doped-up, depressive wife. Despite her flaws as a cinematic non-starter, casting her as such might be somewhat inspired. It would be a boost as Mara has as least to this point, failed to prove she has any business in the business, and wouldn’t even be considered for Saturday afternoon flicks on the SCI-FI channel if she wasn’t a bonded NFL blueblood, heir to the Rooney’s Steelers and the Mara’s New York Giants.

(And you all thought it was a clever stage name.)

Having witnessed her disastrous lack of charisma in films and on Letterman, we can still somehow imagine her as a crumpled shell of nerves hovering under a cloud and unable to get out of her own way. This might end up being her best performance yet, though that isn’t saying much.

The larger gorilla lurking in the room here is not Mara’s lack of screen pop, it’s the two movies in one. This is not uncommon, but usually it signals the Screenwriter and Director couldn’t make up their minds and both ended up compromising. The first half revolves around Mara’s depressive spiral. We doubt it’s all that compelling, but at least it’s something, good or bad. Then the whole thing morphs into a thriller-esque frame-up of Jude Law, who gets into trouble because he signed off on the experimental drugs.

(Cue the snore app.)

Soderbergh’s problem has frequently been the tendency to never trust his own instincts. Even in some of his best work, there are gaping moments of narrative self-doubt. We tend to forgive him because he’s such a serious guy, always swings for the parking lot, and is an ace cinematographer.

(Except for Magic Mike. For that he should never be forgiven.)

Even so, diligent thought and earnest effort are no guarantees of a great product, and for years now, most of his films have been dis-jointed and rambling, or flat-out unwatchable. Ever hear anyone gushing over sewage like “Haywire,” or “The Informant?”

With good reason.