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This Week at the Movies

'Side Effects' is an engrossing, twisty thriller, while 'A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III' is stylish, but lacking in substance.

Steven Soderbergh’s “Side Effects,” which is said to be the prolific director’s last theatrical film for a while, is a twisty thriller that does little to ease anxieties about depression or the drugs that are taken to treat it.

The picture’s story is set amid the world of Big Pharma and is unveiled – much like Gillian Flynn’s blockbuster novel “Gone Girl” – through two narrators, one of whom is not being completely straightforward.

As the film opens, Emily (Rooney Mara) is deeply depressed following the return home of her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), who spent a few years in prison for insider trading.

In an act of seeming desperation, Emily attempts suicide by driving her car into the wall of a parking lot. She is ordered to see Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), a psychiatrist who first prescribes Zoloft and then gives her a new drug known as Ablixa.

Shortly thereafter, a murder occurs and, by all appearances, Banks is going to be the fall guy. I can’t describe much more of the plot without giving away the film’s numerous twists and turns – some of which are obvious, while others I’d imagine you won’t see coming.

“Side Effects” is a moody, stylish and expertly directed thriller that is aided by some solid performances from its cast, especially Mara, whose character is a tricky one to play, and Law, who gets to dig in to his juiciest role in years.

For years, Soderbergh has been one of American cinema’s busiest directors, moving back and forth between studio films and independents. Some of the most noteworthy entries on his resume include “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” “King of the Hill,” “Out of Sight,” “Traffic” and “Magic Mike.”

If the filmmaker truly intends to hang up his directorial hat, then he has gone out with a bang. “Side Effects” is the first American film of the year that I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Roman Coppola’s sophomore feature, “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III,” was long in the making and, unfortunately, a missed opportunity.

The filmmaker is a frequent collaborator with Wes Anderson and it’s clear that the “Moonrise Kingdom” director has inspired this particular work.

Charlie Sheen stars as Swan, a misogynistic graphic designer whose latest romantic catastrophe has left him soul searching.

For most of the picture, Swan seeks consolation in a bevy of quirky characters, including his sister (Patricia Arquette), a best pal pop star (Jason Schwartzman) and business manager (Bill Murray). The latter two actors frequently appear in Anderson’s films.

Stylistically and story-wise, “Swan” pays homage to Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” and, toward its culmination, Federico Fellini’s “8 ½,” but fails to give viewers a reason to care about its protagonists as those great films did.

The movie plays as a series of vignettes, most of which are obviously aiming to be whimsical and quirky, but few of which actually add up to much. “Swan” is often nice to look at, but lacking in most other departments.

“Side Effects” is playing at Douglaston’s Movie World, while “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” is screening at Manhattan’s Angelika Film Center.

Flimfan February 12, 2013 at 04:46 AM
Looking forward to Side Effects. Good review
Flimfan February 12, 2013 at 04:59 AM
Looking forward to seeing Side Effects. Good review

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