Side Effects (2013 film)

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Side Effects
Promotional poster
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Produced by
Written by Scott Z. Burns
Music by Thomas Newman
  • Steven Soderbergh
  • (as Peter Andrews)
Edited by
  • Steven Soderbergh
  • (as Mary Ann Bernard)
Distributed by Open Road Films
Release dates
  • February 8, 2013 (2013-02-08)
Running time
106 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $30 million[2]
Box office $63,372,757[3]

Side Effects is a 2013 American psychological thriller film directed by Steven Soderbergh from a screenplay written by Scott Z. Burns. The film stars Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Channing Tatum. The film concerns the ramifications of an event following a young woman being prescribed antidepressant drugs, in particular the fictional new drug Ablixa (alipazone). To promote the movie, a website for Ablixa was created, and Jude Law answered questions by email.

Side Effects was released in the United States on February 8, 2013.[4]


Emily Taylor's (Rooney Mara) husband Martin (Channing Tatum) is released after serving a four-year prison sentence for insider trading. Shortly afterward, Emily drives her car into a concrete wall in an apparent suicide attempt. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), her assigned psychiatrist, fears for her safety but agrees to her release from the hospital as long as she attends sessions with him on a regular basis.

Emily tries a series of antidepressant medications, but none of them work. Jonathan contacts Emily's previous psychiatrist, Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who suggests that Jonathan put Emily on a new drug called Ablixa. Jonathan is reluctant to put Emily on the experimental drug until she attempts suicide a second time by trying to jump onto a subway track. The medication works, enabling Emily to function normally besides occasional sleepwalking episodes, a side effect of the drug. One evening, she stabs Martin to death while sleepwalking.

Emily is brought to trial, and Jonathan fights for her acquittal. He is criticized publicly for fumbling Emily's case, and his colleagues assume he has been negligent due to his heavy workload. Emily eventually agrees to plead insanity; she is declared not guilty on the condition that she stays in a mental institution until cleared by a psychiatrist.

Due to the case's bad publicity, Jonathan's career is left in ruins. However, he sets out to clear his name and uncovers evidence that not only did Emily fake her suicide attempts, but also she was involved in a criminal conspiracy with Victoria. Jonathan interviews Emily after administering what he claims is a truth serum. Emily behaves as if she's groggy from the drug, which unbeknownst to her is actually a placebo. This confirms Jonathan's suspicions.

When Jonathan confronts Victoria with his findings, she mails photographs to Jonathan's wife implying he had an affair with Emily; Jonathan's wife and stepson leave him. Jonathan manages to turn Emily and Victoria against each other by using legal means to prevent contact between them and making each believe that her partner had sold her out to Jonathan for a better deal.

Emily reveals the workings of the plot to Jonathan: she enjoyed the opulent lifestyle she had with Martin in Greenwich, Connecticut and hated him for causing her to lose it when he went to jail. She specifically went to Victoria for counseling as she, too, had been abandoned by her husband, and the two became lovers. Emily taught Victoria about the workings of the financial world, while Victoria taught Emily how to fake psychiatric disorders. They then went to elaborate means to fake the side effects of Ablixa in order to manipulate the stock prices of the drug's manufacturer and its competitor, allowing the duo to become rich in the process.

Jonathan agrees to release Emily from the psychiatric ward under his care. Wearing a wire, she immediately re-unites with Victoria, who admits details of the plot to Emily while kissing and caressing her. Victoria is arrested for conspiracy to commit murder, but Emily, due to double jeopardy, can no longer be held criminally responsible for her part in Martin's murder.

As retaliation for Emily's part in the plot, Jonathan, who still technically oversees her case, prescribes her a series of unnecessary drugs with serious side effects, threatening to send her back to the ward if she refuses. Furious, Emily rants about all that she has done to avoid being sent to prison for Martin's death. Unbeknownst to her, Martin's mother, her lawyer, and a police officer are all outside the room and hear the confession. The police take Emily into custody and send her back to the mental ward for refusing treatment.

In the final scene, Jonathan has regained his normal life with his wife and stepson. Emily stands, staring blankly out the window. A psychiatric nurse asks Emily how she's feeling, and she responds by saying apathetically: "Better. Much better."


Originally, Blake Lively was cast for the lead role.[6] However, it was later reported Rooney Mara would replace her.[7] This is the third collaboration between Zeta-Jones and Soderbergh, following Traffic (2000) and Ocean's Twelve (2004).[8] It is also the third collaboration between Tatum and Soderbergh, following Haywire and Magic Mike.


Side Effects, previously titled The Bitter Pill, was directed by Steven Soderbergh, produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Gregory Jacobs, and Scott Z. Burns who also worked on the screenplay.[9] In January 2012, the film was reported to be produced by Annapurna Pictures.[10] A few weeks later, Annapurna Pictures pulled out from the project resulting in Endgame Entertainment financing the project.[11]

Principal photography started on April 5, 2012 in New York City.[12] The first pictures from the set surfaced on April 10, 2012.[13][14]


The film's original score was provided by Soderbergh's regular collaborator, Thomas Newman. The score was released by Varèse Sarabande on March 5, 2013.

  1. "Acute Parasomnia" – 0:41
  2. "Very Sick Girl (Main Title)" – 2:25
  3. "Houston Free Meds" – 2:22
  4. "Relativity – 1:22
  5. "Past Behaviour" – 1:28
  6. "Another Acquittal" – 3:27
  7. "Knife" – 1:20
  8. "Hopelessness" – 1:22
  9. "Allison Finn" – 2:27
  10. "Dark & Stormy" – 1:10
  11. "Poisonous Fog" – 2:29
  12. "Salt Water" – 2:00
  13. "Conduct Review" – 2:09
  14. "Double Jeopardy" – 0:46
  15. "Malingering" – 5:42
  16. "St. Luke's" – 1:23
  17. "Take Back Tomorrow (End Title)" – 2:21
  18. "The Forgotten People" (performed by Thievery Corporation) – 3:12


In January 2012, it was reported that The Bitter Pill would be released by Open Road Films.[10] The title was later changed to Side Effects. In November 2012, the first trailer was released. The film was screened in competition at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival.[15]

Side Effects opened nationwide on February 8, 2013. It finished number three at the box office with $9.3 million, behind fellow newcomer Identity Thief ($34.6 million) and Warm Bodies ($11.4 million). The film grossed $32.2 million in America and $31.2 million in other territories, for a total gross of $63.4 million.[16]


Side Effects received mostly positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 83%, based on 195 reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The site's consensus reads: "A smart, clever thriller with plenty of disquieting twists, Side Effects is yet another assured effort from director Steven Soderbergh."[17] On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 75 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[18]

Peter Sobczynski gave the film two and a half out of four stars.[19] Kirk Honeycutt of Honey Cutts Hollywood called the film a "post-modern Hitchcock-thriller" and praised the story matter, which he dubbed "incredible".[20] Richard Corliss of Time gave the film a positive review, complimenting the director and screenwriter and noting its similarity to Spellbound, The Wrong Man, Vertigo, Marnie — and such Hitchcock-tribute films as Obsession, Dressed to Kill, Raising Cain, and Passion, stating "More efficient than inspired, Soderbergh rarely succeeds on style alone, but when given a sharp script, like the one for Side Effects, he can make an excellent film. If this is his swan song, it's got a haunting melody".[21] In the UK, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian awarded the film a maximum five stars, calling it "a gripping psychological thriller about big pharma and mental health that cruelly leaves you craving one last fix". He praised the lead performance from Rooney Mara as "compelling" who "lays down the law with her presence. She demonstrates a potent Hitchcockian combination: an ability to be scared and scary at the same time, and Soderbergh's film manages to introduce its effects in some insidious, almost intravenous way".[22] Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph awarded Side Effects a maximum five stars and also acknowledged its debt to earlier psychological thrillers. He wrote: "There's a lot of Alfred Hitchcock in what follows, but even more Henri-Georges Clouzot, with whose classic spine-tingler Les Diaboliques (1954) Soderbergh's film shares a poisonous tang".[23] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone praised the film's performances, the script and direction, writing "Soderbergh delivers ticking-bomb suspense laced with psychological acuity about a world where mood-altering meds are as disturbingly prevalent as social media".[24]

Edward Douglas of gave the film a 7.5/10, praising the performances of Jude Law and Rooney Mara as well as the writing of the film, stating that the film explores "some interesting ideas". Douglas compared the film to classic thrillers, but stated that the film began feeling far-fetched as the story progressed.[25]


  1. ^ "SIDE EFFECTS (15)". British Board of Film Classification. February 5, 2013. Retrieved February 5, 2013. 
  2. ^ Amy Kaufman (February 7, 2013). "'Identity Thief' will easily steal No. 1 from 'Side Effects'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 1, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Side Effects(2013)". The Numbers. Retrieved May 18, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Open Road Sets Steven Soderbergh's 'Bitter Pill' For February 8, 2013 Release". Retrieved July 14, 2012.
  5. ^ "Vinessa Shaw In Talks To Join Steven Soderbergh's 'Bitter Pill'". March 27, 2012. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  6. ^ Lyttelton, Oliver (January 9, 2012). "Exclusive: Blake Lively, Jude Law & Channing Tatum Will Lead Steven Soderbergh's 'The Side Effects'". indieWire. Retrieved January 19, 2012. 
  7. ^ Fleming, Mike (January 30, 2012). "Rooney Mara Takes Lead In Steven Soderbergh's 'Side Effects'". Deadline. Retrieved February 4, 2012. 
  8. ^ Fleming, Mike (January 24, 2012). "Catherine Zeta-Jones Joins Steven Soderbergh's 'Side Effects'". Deadline. Retrieved February 4, 2012. 
  9. ^ Kit, Borys (November 29, 2011). "Steven Soderbergh's New Project Is Thriller 'The Bitter Pill' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 19, 2012. 
  10. ^ a b Lang, Brent (January 18, 2011). "Soderbergh Not Ready to Retire Yet; Open Road and Annapurna Releasing 'Side Effects'". Reuters. Retrieved January 19, 2012. 
  11. ^ Kit, Borys (January 31, 2012). "Endgame to Finance Steven Soderbergh's 'Bitter Pill'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 4, 2012. 
  12. ^ "'Bitter Pill', starring Channing Tatum and Jude Law, filming underway in NYC!". On Location Vacations. April 5, 2012. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  13. ^ Raup, Jordan (April 10, 2012). "[First Look] Rooney Mara Goes Piercing Free On Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Bitter Pill’ Set". The Film Stage. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  14. ^ Reynolds, Simon (April 11, 2012). "Rooney Mara, Jude Law in 'The Bitter Pill' - First Look Pictures". Digital Spy. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Berlinale Competition 2013: Another Nine Films Confirmed". Berlinale. Retrieved January 11, 2013. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Side Effects". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 1, 2013. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ Sobczynski, Peter (February 6, 2013). "Side Effects Movie Review & Film Summary (2013)". Retrieved June 1, 2013. 
  20. ^ Kirk Honeycutt (January 29, 2013). "Side Effects is Steven Soderbergh's post-modern Hitchcock thriller". Honeycutt's Hollywood. Retrieved June 1, 2013. 
  21. ^ Richard Corliss (February 8, 2013). "Side Effects: One Pill Makes You Murder". Time. Retrieved June 1, 2013. 
  22. ^ Peter Bradshaw (March 7, 2013). "Side Effects – review". The Guardian. Retrieved June 1, 2013. 
  23. ^ Robbie Collin (March 7, 2013). "Side Effects, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved June 1, 2013. 
  24. ^ Peter Travers (February 6, 2013). "Side Effects". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 1, 2013. 
  25. ^ Edward Douglas. "Side Effects Movie Review". ComingSoon. Retrieved June 1, 2013. 

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