Monday, 1 April 2013
Why I'm Angry About Side Effects' Ending - SPOILERS
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. Obviously do not read this post if you have not seen Side Effects yet. And do not get tempted, it does not have one of those Six Sense WTF twist endings, but a gradual and complex narrative build up, so you have nothing to gain by reading this, it will just make little sense. It is frustrating sometimes not to be able to discuss film plots for fear of ruining the film's enjoyment, but films are also made to be discussed long after you have seen them. So let the rant begin...
I still think Side Effects is a brilliant film. Gripping and quietly oppressive, like being smothered by a pillow. Clinically filmed in a world of glossy practices and expensive lofts, it feels like a grown-up thriller, which relies on a tight script more than cheap shocks. And it benefits from some brilliant performances from both Rooney Mara and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
So what is wrong with the ending? I basically feel the two ladies should have got away with it. There is a difference between how you would want a film to end (and yes my sympathies clearly lied with them), and how you feel an ending does not fit with what have occurred prior to it, and this is the latter in this case.
The film takes great pain to present some complex situations and ambivalent characters, yet it goes for a happy happy ending, which simply does not fit the story's moral compass. So yes, Emily (Rooney Mara) and Victoria (Catherine Zeta-Jones) came up with a pretty evil plan which involved killing a man, ensnaring another man and ruining his life, and get rich in the process.
Yes this is unforgivable. Yet, were they not somehow victims themselves of the male world? Emily's husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), betrayed her trust, and pretty much used her as a trophy wife, when she clearly had some previous mental problems already. She had to put up with four years of being strong, alone, while he was in jail, sustaining herself then having to look after him when he got released. As for Victoria, she got dumped for a younger model, perhaps not the most defensible excuse for killing a man. But still.
And as for Jude Law himself, he is an ambitious man who thinks nothing of being paid for a big pharmaceutical company to push some new drugs (a lovely practice by the way, what kind of world do we live in!), all that so that he can fund his upwardly mobile lifestyle. So why does he all of the sudden become a model of virtue and the hero of our story? Yes his life is ruined, but does that justify the vicious streak he displays on the last act? I will not even bother looking too closely at the absurd legal implications of his acts, but he almost seems to take a sadistic pleasure in tormenting Emily, with threats of medical mental castration and electric shock therapy. Not to mention his visible enjoyment of the control he exerts over her.
As the story unfolded, to me, Rooney Mara came across as a femme fatale meets sleeping beauty, in lesbian cahoot with the evil stepmother figure (Victoria), a rather brilliant and surreal deviation from a plot very much grounded in contemporary reality so far, and I was enjoying this development tremendously. Which is why I expected a very different direction for the ending. It played an interesting card with its hint of triple crossing and more twists to come, and it could have gone the Wild Things way of the Russian Dolls twists, where each one uncovers yet another twist.
All we end up with is a very moralistic ending where the lesbian psychos get punished, and harshly so, and the dominant and morally ambiguous male character, for all his multiple failing and unpalatable behaviour, get his life back, his wife, his loft, and the private education for the kid. The film deserved a morally ambiguous ending, and I truly hope that Emily's last scene hints that it is not the end quite yet.
Movie nut, born in France, living in London, holding the enviable title of the only person ever to have been suspended from school for skipping class to attend the Cannes Film Festival...
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If it ended in the way you would have liked it would have been predictable and a far shorter film, if anything the endless pursuit and moral ambiguity of attaining the truth is what made this film brilliant.ReplyDelete
It makes sense that Emily outed Victoria -- so she could get out of the hospital. What confused me was why Jude Law's character put her back in so ruthlessly. Just to guarantee protection from her crazy ways (and his misdeeds in her treatment)? That level of cruelty seemed a bit beyond what we saw from him before (except in his throes of desperation, perhaps). Any thoughts?ReplyDelete
Maybe because she had killed her husband and deserved imprisonment, but would never be retried because of double jeopardy?Delete
I agree with you completely about Jude. I couldn't understand his level of cruelty. The ladies did far worse but there was a purpose, a reason (even if a messed up one!) but revenge alone did not explain his glee at tormenting herReplyDelete
Just saw this film and I loved it. I thought Judes actions came from himself being made crazy by the way his life was suddenly ripped away from him by Emily and Victoria. Almost like how Emilys life was flipped upside down when she was lied to by her husband and in turn making her come up with such a "crazy" plan. So I would say all three characters were in some form crazy, crazy enough to better their lives or in Judes case get his life back. He needed to scare the crap out of Emily to get her to talk so he went a little crazy.ReplyDelete
You are very right actually, I don't think I truly weighed in the impact of all that happened to him, and how he pretty much became crazy too, just like her!ReplyDelete
I wanted to read your article because I shared the same feeling with you but for a whole different reasons. This movie is an exceptional psycological thriller except from its ending. The end is very short, abrupt and makes little sense. Since John finds out the two women's plan the solution and revenge for him happens really quickly and easily. Its like Emily and Dr. Sibert can't do anything to change the course of things, in contrary with their genious attitude so far. Last but not least, I would have preferred a much more complicated and maybe not that "happy" ending...ReplyDelete
While this review was well thought out, it fails on almost every level.ReplyDelete
I've enjoyed reading everyone's thoughts on this movie, and agree it was a brilliant film..but one thing was unclear to me, could it be that Emily was really sick to begin with, kind of like a psycho/socio path and dr S was just a pawn in her master plan to off the hubby and get rich? Therefore she really did belong in a psychiatric hospital?ReplyDelete
At first i would agree with you on thinking Jude's character was being cruel but then i stop and think who the bad guy really is. She KILLED her husband and regardless of how she was hurt when he went to jail, that doesn't give you an excuse to kill him. She deserved to be put away in jail but due to double jeopardy, this was his way of finding justice.ReplyDelete
This review kind of shocked me. Emily was a calculating cold blooded murderer! Dr. Seibert was fully complicit in the entire scheme. the two of them also severly and unfairly damaged a drug company in order to get rich, perhaps putting js and lives in jeapordy. They thought nothing of the massive damage they caused. Jude Law's character made the mistake of being sympathatic to Emily, and fought to help her. He was played for a patsy and his life was left in ruins by two shockingly cold blooded ladies. he was not at all evil, he worked hard to make a good life for himself and his family and he made it clear he was being paid to recommend ablixa. The drug in reality had nothing to do with what happend. He was in no way responsible for martins death or Emily's situation. When he realized what was really happening of course he wanted revenge, who wouldn't! To me the biggest complaint is that he got back with his wife at the end of the movie. She dropped him like a hot potato over something that should have raised serious questions. who sent this envelope full of pictures and why? Why isn't law's character actually in the pictures where Emily is disrobed, and why after that would he even want to get back together with her?ReplyDelete
I disagree with you,ReplyDelete
In real life, justice is not always served. So, it is a nice change to see that their evil plan drove them to their dark future, instead of the bright one they were planning.
Regarding Jude, I dont see how anyone will not understand why he cannot be so cruel towards a woman who destroyed his life completely (no job, no family, no reputation) and didnt even cared about what his life is going to be like, and he is a complete stranger and did nothing to her. So in order to get his life back he had to do whatever it takes. I also think he looked at her as a manipulative murderer who deserved jail, and since he was not able to do it, he sent her back to the mental hospital.
This was a great movie and it built up gradually and you couldnt tell what will happen next.
I like how you think Emily and Dr. S's actions were justified yet crucify Dr. Banks's actions. They killed a guy for inconveniencing Emily's life for 4 years, then destroyed a drug company and another doctors life. All he did was send two GUILTY people to prison and an asylum.ReplyDelete
Emily was clearly a weak person, she depended on her husband and put all her trust in him. Martin made her feel somehow confident and gave her everything. When it was revealed he betrayed her trust, she found herself alone again, all that confidence and 'happiness' gone in a blink of an eye. Dependant people usually have low self-esteem, and it was right at this point in Emily's life when she met Victoria. As a psychiatrist she soon realised she could manipulate her, promising a 'bright' future, love and money. In conclusion, I believe Emily should have had her redemption by making Dr. Siebert confess everything.ReplyDelete
Well,we have many movies where the bad guys get away with it, especially if they are women. And it makes me sick. So i liked the ending. In fact i loved it. So sorry if it ruined your feminist fantasies!ReplyDelete