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Film: Side Effects

Side Effects is a 2013 drama/thriller movie directed by Steven Soderbergh. It stars Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

The film is initially about Emily's (Mara) struggle with depression following her husband's four-year imprisonment for insider trading. Having been "swept off her feet" by the rich and charming Martin (Tatum) at only twenty-three, Emily found out the hard way where his money came from when he was imprisoned just a year after their marriage. Enter Dr. Banks (Law), a psychiatrist who seems to be able to help Emily with a new anti-depressant drug, Ablixa. But as it turns out, Ablixa has powerful and dangerous side effects...

Tropes:

  • A Date with Rosie Palms: In one of the flashbacks, Emily openly masturbates on Seibert's couch in order to seduce her.
  • Arc Words: "Exit" during Emily's part of the story and "poisonous fog" during Dr. Banks'. They're both red herrings.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Emily and Seibert. Each think they're the other's Dragon. Emily is the one who backstabs first.
  • Bait the Dog: Banks and the viewing audience are made to feel sad for Emily and her becoming a victim of prescription medicine after she killed her husband. Then you find out the truth that Emily is a Devil in Plain Sight.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Emily.
  • Bi the Way: Emily and Siebert as Lipstick Lesbians
  • Bland-Name Product: Averted with the medication discussed during the film, except for Ablixa.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Averted. Emily's two biggest mistakes (not knowing the truth serum was fake, and not knowing about the Loophole Abuse that Banks uses to lock her up again) are things she could not have anticipated, given her specific background of learning insider trading from Martin and acting from Seibert.
  • Book Ends: The film begins with a helicopter shot zooming in to the window of Emily's apartment, and ends with a helicopter shot zooming out of the window of Emily's new residence.
  • Casting Gag: This isn't the first time Jude Law has played a doctor who does some investigating.
  • Clear My Name: Part of Banks's motivation following the incident with Emily.
  • Color Wash: many scenes have a warm yellow tint, especially in the first half of the film.
  • Dead Star Walking: The trailer, poster and other promotional materials of the film lead you you believe that Channing Tatum plays a major role in the plot, only for his character to get killed thirty minutes into it.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: Of the Clear My Name storyline. Banks obsesses over the case, following false leads and becoming more disheveled in his quest for Revenge, losing his wife and child in the process. But by the end, he is proven right, the bad guy goes to prison and he gets his family back.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The story focuses on Emily's struggle with depression until about a third of the way in, where it switches to Banks' point of view and Emily is revealed as part of a Big Bad Duumvirate.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: How Emily manages to activate the police tracker on Seibert.
  • Electric Torture: Threatened. After Dr Banks's suspicions about Emily start to harden, he takes her to see an electro-convulsive therapy session in the secure hospital. He tells her that it's a very effective treatment for depression, "but who knows what it could do if there's nothing wrong with you?"
  • Fanservice: This is Rooney Mara we're talking about here. She's practically the female Matthew McConaughey when it comes to contractually-obliged shirtlessness.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Banks gets Emily readmitted to the ward in almost exactly the same way that Emily backstabbed Seibert just one scene earlier.
  • Hidden Depths: Emily, big time.
  • Magic Feather / Spotting the Thread: The truth serum Banks gives Emily was a placebo, but she acts as though she were given an actual dose.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer plays up the medical drama aspect of the movie, emphasizing the idea of Emily dealing with her medicine's side effects and mentioning that it was made by the folks behind Contagion. While the side effects are relevant, there is a LOT more going on in the movie.
  • Product Placement: Dr Banks drinks Red Bull, uses Apple laptops and Blackberry phones, and drives a BMW. Crazy people drive Volkswagen.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: Dr Banks interviews an agitated Haitian in untranslated French, but then summarises the conversation for the cop who brought him in. The man had seen his dead father driving a taxi: apparently grieving Haitians often see the dead. "Weird for us, normal for them."
  • Red Herring: The movie knows you're watching thriller with a massive Chekhov's Armory, and drops as many clues as it can about the makers of Ablixa being behind Martin's murder without following through on any of it.
    • There's also a lot of Subtext suggesting that Banks will be the actual villain. Again, this isn't the case.
    • The exit signs prominent during Emily's first two episodes could be a subversion. On the one hand, they have no relevance to the plot, but they could also be symbolic of Emily's plan to leave ("exit") with the money she got from Seibert.
  • The Reveal: A big, long one towards the end. Emily and Siebert began sleeping together after Emily saw her for the first time. They taught each other their respective skillsets (Siebert showing Emily how to act depressed and Emily explaining what Martin had taught her about financial markets) and orchestrated the whole deal with Ablixa to get rich off the stock market. Banks was just a random casualty of the scheme.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Banks goes on this as the film progresses. Ditto for Emily.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Sleepwalking had already been established as odd but harmless, but in its second appearance there's a rather literal Gut Punch
  • Took a Level in Badass: Banks starts off as a polite, well-meaning, and competent psychiatrist. After Emily and Siebert ruin his life he becomes a ruthless, full-blown Magnificent Bastard in the course of exacting his vengeance.
  • White Collar Crime: why Emily's husband was in jail. Also, it is possible to make money on the stock exchange by betting that a company's shares will go down, rather than up. If you know that a pharmaceutical company's new anti-depressant is going to get some very bad publicity for its side effects, then it's a pretty safe bet.
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