Film Review: Side Effects

Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh’s psychological thriller Side Effects is finely executed. The film is absorbing viewing.

Emily Taylor is a young woman living in New York. With her husband being released from prison, Emily is struggling to cope. She is prescribed medication by her psychiatrist, but the pills start to have unwanted side effects…

Released in cinemas before the majestic Behind the Candelabra, Side Effects shows a return to form for director Steven Soderbergh after the lacklustre Haywire and Magic Mike. Side Effects is absorbing, and keeps viewers on their toes.

Soderbergh’s film features a great narrative. Scott Z. Burns’ screenplay retains a sense of mystery. The film continually keeps the audience guessing as to which way the story will turn.

In the first thirty minutes or so, it seems as if the film will be something of a satire on the pharmaceutical industry. However as Side Effects develops, the emphasis shifts further on the story and the psychological element. The film still conveys the same message that seems to be set out in the first half of the film, but with a much meatier plot.

Pacing in the film is good. The characters are well developed, and seem authentic. Pyschiatrist Dr Jonathan Banks is particularly interesting. He functions as a multi-dimensional character in his own right, and not just a conduit for the audience to view proceedings.

The cinematography is great in Side Effects. The sense of ambiguity in the narrative is replicated in the choice of unusual angles. There is a feeling of the uncanny which permeates the film. The flashback sequences have a nice hazy quality to them.

Performances are good all round, especially Jude Law’s psychiatrist. It seems as if the role of Dr Victoria Siebert was made for Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Side Effects is a most satisfying film, which Soderbergh elevates above other recent psychological thrillers.

Side Effects is out on DVD and Blu-Ray from 29th July 2013.

Film Review: Behind the Candelabra

Behind the Candelabra

Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra is resplendent. As dazzling as any of Liberace’s outfits, Behind the Candelabra is easily one of the best films of the year so far.

Scott Thorson is a young gay man living in California. When a friend takes him to see legendary entertainer Liberace, a relationship develops. Scott is thrust into a world of extravagance, but living with Liberace is not plain sailing…

Behind the Candelabra works so well because both comedy and drama are executed fantastically. Based on Thorson’s autobiographical novel, the film has many laughs. However, it is the moments of emotion and reflection which are affecting.

Behind the Candelabra is funny without mocking Liberace. It does poke fun at the flamboyant character now and again, but this is done in an affectionate way rather than a spiteful one. In a way, it is in keeping with the camp of the legend himself. The film boasts some excellent lines.

The central dynamic of the tumultuous relationship between Liberace and Thorson is what makes the film tick. This relationship is portrayed with depth; it is convincing and engaging. Both protagonists are three dimensional. Other characters, such as Dr Startz bring excellent comedy value to the film.

Costumes and sets in Behind the Candelabra are sublime. The film really captures the flamboyance of Liberace’s outfits and staging for his shows. There is a good use of Liberace’s music and staging to recreate shows. Soderbergh’s direction solid throughout; he handles the intimate scenes and the busier stage numbers equally well.

Behind the Candelabra features some fantastic performances. Michael Douglas is wholly convincing as the legendary entertainer, while Matt Damon delivers a strong performance as Scott Thorson. The pair are aided by a solid supporting cast. In particular Rob Lowe is a scene stealer as Dr Startz.

Simply put, Behind the Candelabra is essential viewing.

5 Reasons to Watch Behind the Candelabra

When I heard a Liberace biopic was being made, I clutched my rhinestone-encrusted cape with excitement. Behind the Candelabra is based on Scott Thorson’s autobiographical novel about his relationship with the flamboyant entertainer. Here are five reasons to watch Behind the Candelabra when it is released in cinemas on 7th June 2013…

1. The Outfits

michael douglas behind the candelabra

Look at this magnificent outfit. The costumes are reason enough to watch Behind the Candelabra. The rings, ruffled sleeves, the bejewelled fur-lined cape. Librace was famed for his outfits, so the film is bound to feature several of show-stopping looks. Get ready to take notes.

2. The Hair

rob lowe behind the candelabra

Rob Lowe can really work a feathered bob. I don’t think he has ever looked better. Behind the Candelabra is set in 1977, so expect hairspray, feathering, and volume like no other.

3. The Cast and Director

behind the candelabra cast

The enviable cast is another reason to watch Behind the Candelabra. Michael Douglas looks ever inch the part as showman Liberace, while Matt Damon always delivers a solid performance. Dan Aykroyd and Rob Lowe are two other big-name members of the cast. Although I haven’t been overly impressed by some of Steven Soderbergh’s recent efforts (I am yet to see Side Effects, but Magic Mike and Haywire were below par), however his pedigree does add a certain allure to this project.

4. Librace

Behind the Candelabra is about the incomparable Liberace. One of my (and surely everyone else’s) idols, Liberace was exactly what an entertainer should be: flamboyant, talented, and not without a whiff of controversy. If you require another reason to watch Behind the Candelabra, check out the above clip of Liberace on The Muppet Show from 1978.

5. Librace’s Dog

Liberace's dog

Look at this dog. Look at its collar. Being Liberace’s dog must have been the greatest vocation on Earth. To be surrounded by that much glamour and that many sequins would make my heart explode. On top of everything else, viewers get to soak up the magnetism of this canine in Behind the Candelabra. Spectacular.