I have always thought Steven Soderbergh was a pretty interesting director. For me, very few of his movies are smack me in the jaw great, but there is always something that snags me. Schizopolis was a bold and wildly entertaining experiment. The Limey packs a strong punch and a fine Terence Stamp perf. But when Ocean’s Eleven came around I saw a new rat pack, brat pack, frat pack era. Confident dudes with tons of money having fun making a movie on yachts, expensive champagne, sixty pounds of cocaine and strippers. I was like, ok, this dude is not one of the common people.
After Ocean’s Eleven (which I think kinda sucks – way too dude self congratulatory back slapping and smug) Soderbergh seemed only to get more and more powerful even though he wasn’t making films swarms of people came out to see. I mean, how do you keep a successful career going in Hollywood if tons of people don’t come out to see your movies? After watching his recent Side Effects, I got the feeling he earned his success by firmly embracing the value system of his big business employers and acting as a mouth piece for them.
Through movies you can reach the core of the human soul. They are the modern transfiguration of the oral tradition – sitting around a fire telling stories about things we all know to be true. In Side Effects, Soderbergh mutates the truth, embracing a vile lie which heaps blame on those exploited by an inhumane and gluttonous system. The director may be very smart and capable of interesting work, but he may also be a cold, reptilian status seeker very far from my ideal of what a filmmaker can be and what every filmmaker should strive for, which, to me, is a catalyst for enlightenment. But I don’t know. I could be wrong. I don’t know the guy. I am only using what I see in his work. He may be a very nice and caring person.
Side Effects starts off as what seems like an indictment of the multi-billion dollar drug industry’s greed fueled lack of regard for public safety, but it devolves into a dumb whodunnit, ultimately indicting the apparent victim. At first glance, Rooney Mara suffers some sort of homicidal somnambulatory psychosis due to her eager to climb that corporate ladder therapist’s prescription of an experimental mental health med pushed on him by a drug rep. But in the end it turns out Mara was just trying to rip off the big business drug company via some stock scam she co-engineered with her former therapist, Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Poor drug companies. Can’t they just get what they want for once and control everything and call all the shots? Like us, they’re just trying to make a living, no? No.
They have mighty political lobbying powers. Laws are written to protect them and to heap the blame on those who suffer from mental illness when something goes wrong. And they just keep reaping galaxies of cash. Thank you, filmmakers, for bringing to light that crazy people just want to rip off the jerks with all the power in the world. Your wisdom and empathy are almost blinding. By taking the side of the big lie you have separated yourself from the humane. You have made your stand on the class war clear.
So don’t bite the big business hand that feeds you. Just keep doing what they tell you and another Oscar is on its way!