Side Effects



Side Effects
Run time 118 minutes.
OK for children.

Copyright(c) Open Road Films

Rooney Mara in “Side Effects.”

This is a neat little thriller that reminded me of 1993’s Malice, a Nicole Kidman vehicle that presently rests in 1,418th place on the all-time list of domestic grosses. In other words, not a lot of people saw it. And that’s unfortunate because, written by Aaron Sorkin, it started out as one thing and completely turned 180° in the middle and became something else, thoroughly entertaining.

In this, Emily (Rooney Mara) plays a strange woman married to Martin (Channing Tatum) who has just been released from prison after serving a four-year term for insider trading. She seems depressed so she consults psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) for help. He prescribes a new drug, for which he is being paid to conduct a clinical trial.

Alas, things spin out of control, affecting the lives of everyone, including another psychiatrist Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), whom Dr. Banks discovers has treated Emily previously.

Although it’s a little long (what modern movie is not?), Steven Soderbergh directs a terrific script by Scott Z. Burns with admirable pace. He gets wonderful performances by Law and Mara.

Just about every year one or two films come out with a ballyhoo that they are noir, when they don’t have any of the characteristics of real film noir which came into being in the ‘40s after World War II. This, on the other hand, is a true noir. Although Burns compares the story to Double Indemnity (1944) and Body Heat (1981), I don’t share his reverence for the former, which I think contains one of the corniest scenes of the ‘40s (the one where Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck have a dialogue in which each starts every sentence with “Sposin’.”) I cringe every time I see that scene, but it’s the one that is always shown when this film is lauded. Body Heat, however, is as fine a modern noir as has been filmed since the close of the ‘40s. Maybe Side Effects doesn’t rise to that level, but it comes close enough to be a highly satisfying entertainment.

A fine thriller doesn’t need a review that tells anything more about the plot. All a critic need do when reviewing a film like this is to give an accolade that it is probably as good and thought-provoking a thriller as one will see this year. To write much more would jeopardize being able to watch a story unfold without a clue of what is really going on, which is the best way to watch a movie.

56 Up
Runtime 143 minutes.
OK for children.

Copyright(c) First Run Features

Peter with his band in “56 Up.”

This is the eighth in a series of films started in 1964 by filmmaker Michael Apted who began his career with the first of the series. He has gone on to make many acclaimed films like Coal Miner’s Daughter, Gorillas in the Mist, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. But in 1964 he began his career as a researcher on a new experimental series for Granada TV called Seven Up. This was based on a Jesuit maxim, “give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man.”

Apted took 14 children from all over England and conducted extensive interviews with them when they were seven years old in 1964. The idea, apparently, was to see whether a class system was in place.

Apted has continued the interviews every seven years and the result is fascinating. They are now all 56 years old, ergo the title.

The cutest and most articulate of the seven-year-old children has turned out to be a troubled, but thoughtful adult. He reminded me of Shakespeare’s commentary on Cassius, that he thinks too much.

Another, who as a young woman whose downbeat, depressed, and unhappy attitude makes her unattractive has found love and morphed into the most beautiful and cheerful, outwardly at least, of the 14.

While at almost 2 1/2 hours the film is too long, it’s almost mesmerizing to watch the interviews conducted when they were just reaching the age of reason in 1964 and then to see how they matured and changed. This film cuts back and forth between the initial interviews and subsequent interviews throughout the years, culminating in interviews with them as they are today.

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