Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects, starring Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta Jones and Channing Tatum, has now been out for a few weeks and it’s been doing pretty well so we decided that at least a few CS readers may have already gone to see it.
If you have, you’re likely to have a couple of questions about the twist-filled erotic thriller and fortunately, so did we. When we spoke to screenwriter Scott Z. Burns a few weeks back we decided to ask about a couple of them.
Again, we highly recommend you see Side Effects before reading on because we do talk about two of the big plot twists in the movie that will ruin your enjoyment if you haven’t seen the movie yet.
The first big shocker in the movie is when Rooney Mara’s character, Emily Taylor, under the influence of the prescribed depression medicine Ablixa stabs her husband Martin (Tatum), during a sleepwalking incident.
It’s pretty shocking if you don’t see it coming or haven’t figured it out from the trailer or the opening sequence, but we were shocked to see Channing Tatum, a big movie star, killed off so early in the movie so we asked Scott Burns about that and this is what he told us.
“It’s the same insight Hitchcock had in putting Janet Leigh in Psycho’ is that part of the shock and part of the fun is to subvert that expectation as well. I feel like even the casting is an opportunity to subvert expectation. Whether it was happened to Gwyneth or Winslet in Contagion’ or Channing in this, just a willingness to flout expectations. I think as an industry, whenever Steven and I identify an instinct like Oh you can’t kill Channing Tatum,’ that’s exactly when it’s time to kill Channing Tatum,” he laughed. “I think it’s good for Channing as well for people to see him as an actor that is willing to do that.”
The other twist involves Catherine Zeta Jones as a psychiatrist who formerly treated Emily who is involved with the mind games she starts playing with Jude Law’s psychiatrist who is treating her when she’s sent to an institution after the above sleepwalking murder.
We were curious why Burns and Soderbergh decided to make that character a woman, which leads to quite a few sexy scenes between Jones and Mara later in the film.
Burns told us, “It’s basically the same trick as the rest of the movie. If you cast a good looking man, you would start assuming, Oh, did Emily have a relationship with him?’ It was as much about preventing an expectation as anything else. I think even that flouts some expectations. Why do we assume all the time that it’s going to be a heterosexual relationship that’s going to be someone’s undoing. Again, it’s the same thing with the process of writing where This is what we expect, let’s turn it around.'”
The fact that Tatum’s character is a stock trader jailed for insider trading may not seem to have much to do with the rest of the story as the film begins but that actually plays a large part in how things going down later.
“Even the stock trade. It’s not that they invested in a different stock that’s going to up, which would seem intuitively like If I trash one, I’ll buy the other,’ but even that they bought the trade that was the antithesis of the expectation.”
Side Effects is now playing in theaters. If you’ve seen the movie and had your own thoughts on the twists discussed in the piece, feel free to discuss them in the comments below.