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Side Effects

One pill can change your life.

Rooney as: Emily Taylor
Genre(s): Thriller | Drama
Written by: Scott Z. Burns
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Other Cast: Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum, Vinessa Shaw
Release Date: February 8, 2013
Production Budget:
Total Worldwide Gross: $63.3m
Filming Locations: New York City, New York

  • Side Effects is a provocative thriller about Emily and Martin (Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum), a successful New York couple whose world unravels when a new drug prescribed by Emily’s psychiatrist (Jude Law) – intended to treat anxiety – has unexpected side effects.

    Emily (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara) and Martin Taylor (Channing Tatum) are a young, beautiful, wealthy couple living the good life, with a mansion, a sailboat and every luxury money can buy—until Martin is sent to prison for insider trading. For four years, Emily waits for him in a tiny apartment in upper Manhattan, but his release is just as devastating as his incarceration and Emily sinks into a deep depression.

    After a failed suicide attempt, psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Academy Award nominee Jude Law) is called in to consult on Emily’s case. Desperate not to be hospitalized, Emily agrees to a regimen of therapy and antidepressants, a decision that will change the lives of everyone involved. When Emily’s symptoms don’t improve, Banks prescribes a new medication that quiets her demons. But the side effects of the drug have chilling consequences: marriages are ruined, Banks’ practice is decimated and someone is dead—but who is responsible? Devastated by this professional setback, Banks becomes obsessed with finding an answer. But the truth he uncovers threatens to destroy whatever is left of his career and his private life.

    Production Info

  • Reported at the time to be Steven Soderbergh’s final film as a director.
  • The lead role of Emily was originally set for Blake Lively. However, the film’s financer, Annapurna Pictures backed out shortly after her casting was announced.
  • To help her get into character, screenwriter Scott Z. Burns sent Rooney a series of YouTube video diaries of people diagnosed with depression, and a playlist of downbeat music. Songs included Black Balloon by the Kills and Paul Westerberg’s Bookmark.
  • Jude Law admitted that he felt insecure as an actor playing the lead role, as it was his first performance in which he was playing a husband and father, as he is in real-life, and his first role where he used his normal accent and did not have any hair or makeup change.
  • Steven Soderbergh considered casting Lindsay Lohan for the role of Emily and he auditioned her three times. However, producers felt that her ongoing legal issues would disrupt the production process.
  • Rooney Mara dropped out of Zero Dark Thirty to star in this film.
  • Character Quotes

  • I used to draw when I was a kid. Mostly people, though. Teachers and kids from my class. Boys that I liked. Sometimes cats. I used to try and get their faces perfect. That’s why I came to New York. I wanted to get into graphic design.
  • You’ve never had this. You don’t know what it’s like. Okay? Every afternoon, it’s like… It’s like there’s this poisonous fog bank rolling in on my mind and I’m paralyzed.
  • I don’t ever wanna see another pill again.
  • It was the Ablixa. You told me I should stay on the Ablixa. I would never be here if it weren’t for that.
  • I need to call someone. My shrink is fucking with me.
  • If I tell you the truth, do I have to take the pills? I won’t be able to tell the truth if I take any more pills.
  • Imagine everything you ever wanted shows up one day and calls itself your life. And then… just when you start to believe in it… Gone. And suddenly it gets very hard to imagine a future. That’s depression, right?
  • I read somewhere that there’s a difference between tears of joy and tears of rage. Is that true? It’s in the chemistry but you can’t tell by looking. They all just look like tears.
  • You taught me to be such a sad, sad girl. Do I look sad now?
  • Dr. Banks: How would you feel… about staying here for a few days?
    Emily: Here?
    Dr. Banks: Mm.
    Emily: No, I can’t stay here. Martin just got home and I have to be there for him.
    Dr. Banks: Is that your husband, Martin?
    Emily: Yes, and he just got out of prison. I have to be there. I have a job. I have to go into work. He doesn’t make any money yet. Are you married?
    Dr. Banks: Yes.
    Emily: Okay, what if you got out of jail, or you were away for a long time and you come home and your wife is in the mental hospital? We waited for four years. I can’t… stay here.
  • Martin: Can’t she stop taking… drugs? Isn’t there an alternative approach to–
    Emily: No! God, no. I can finally sleep, I have some energy. We had sex. It was like we were actually together.
  • Emily: [Sobbing] Is there any way that… somebody else did it and… made it look like me?
    Dr. Banks: I don’t think so. That’s not what the police are saying.
    Emily: I killed the wrong person.
  • Dr. Banks: Did you want him dead? Did you kill Martin on purpose?
    Emily: No. I wanted us to sail away together on the boat, all three of us.
    Dr. Banks: The three of you?
    Emily: Madeleine.
    Dr. Banks: What happened to Madeleine?
    Emily: I lost her because I was sad and she didn’t want to stay inside a sad person anymore. He gave me so much and then they took him away. I wanted to give him a daughter.
  • Quoting: Rooney Mara

    On her attraction to the role: Emily is such a complex and interesting character. I don’t read many parts written for women like this. Usually you’re playing a girlfriend or a wife, sort of second fiddle to a guy. When a part comes along that has this much meat to it, it’s really exciting.

    On the appeal of the script: I had to read it more than once. It’s constructed so you often think things are one way, and realize later they’re something else. People don’t really make thrillers like this anymore. It definitely feels sort of like a throwback to classic movies.

    On working with Steven Soderberg: It was a very different experience. It was such a small crew, with very little set-up time, very few takes. The days are much shorter than what I am used to. Steven controls every aspect of his movies. He has a complete vision for the film in his mind when he comes to the set.

    Quoting: Cast and Crew

    Director Steven Soderberg: When David (Fincher) was casting The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, he asked what I thought of Rooney for the lead role. I was very supportive, in part because I felt that movie would be better served by someone not particularly well known. We became friendly because she heard that I had encouraged David to cast her. When this role became available, I got ahold of her.

    Director Steven Soderberg: I think Rooney was excited about playing two sides of a coin. She has enough of a sense of humor to appreciate the darkly comedic aspects of what she was being asked to do. It’s a tricky balance to maintain and make it work as a whole, especially since, as is always the case, we were shooting out of sequence. Rooney did a great job of tracking where her character needed to be at every given point.

    Producer Gregory Jacobs: She’s one of the great new actresses, and her range is just incredible. We felt she was incredibly gifted and would be perfect for the part.

    Writer Scott Z. Burns: There’s something about her that makes you curious. From the first time we met with her, I wanted to know more. The way she plays Emily always has you leaning forward and listening. That can be as powerful as liking someone. You want to know what’s going on inside of them. Inscrutability can be very sexy and very dangerous.

    Co-star Jude Law: We get to be incredibly meek and mild and wounded, as well as fierce, rough and powerful. Rooney is formidable as Emily. She has an unreadable sort of depth of character that is not often found in an actress her age. And she also has an ability to turn on a fire, which is just perfect for this role.

    Co-star Jude Law: There isn’t a desperate bone in her body; she’s very cool. And it’s a rarity for someone of her age to be so fearless as a performer. She’s capable of going to the dark places, which is bold.

    Co-star Channing Tatum: She’s truly one of the most fabulous actresses. She has a skill set that I have never seen with the actresses I’ve worked with. Everybody’s different and have the things that they’re strong at, but she’s special, for sure.

    Co-star Channing Tatum: It’s hard to really quantify Rooney. She has such a fire in her and you don’t think she does, because she’s so unassuming. So when she snaps, you’re just like, ‘How the f–k did that come out of this little, ethereal being with the porcelain skin?’ And when she laughs it’s completely shocking, too. It’s part of her mystique.

    Critical Response

    Richard Corliss, Time: The movie holds all kinds of feints and decoys, but its biggest surprise is Mara. After her mannered, vacant performance in the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, people like me wondered: Why is she in movies? The answer: To make this one. Caressed by golden hues in the sunny flashbacks, appearing wan and frail in some of Emily’s darker moments, Mara proves worthy of Soderbergh’s closeup attention. Emily may not always be reliable; her descriptions of her symptoms — “Every afternoon at three, there’s this poisonous fog bank, rolling in on my mind” — have the whiff of a borrowed epigram (William Styron’s, from Darkness Visible). But, surrounded by some of Soderbergh’s favorite actors, Mara makes her peculiarly watchable; viewers scan her face for clues to a woman as elusive as she is smart.

    Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: Front and center in this scenario is Emily Taylor, played, in her most effective starring performance yet, by Mara, an actress of equal parts feral intensity and impenetrable mystery, who displays a wider array of emotions than she was able to in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

    Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News: Mara, her fine-boned beauty fleshed out some, works wonders with a monotone voice and heavy-lidded demeanor caused by Emily’s dependence on the fictional drug “Ablixa.”

    David Edelstein, New York Magazine: The movie’s great unknowable is Mara, an actress who seems most in her element at her most subterranean. Her face is a mask (Eyes Without a Face swims to mind); there’s an instant’s hesitation between thought and speech, as if her words have to travel up through water to the surface. You can study that chiseled face with its pale, glassy peepers and feel no closer to understanding her, but you get the feeling there’s something down there. Figuring out what is half the fun.

    Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: A sly one, “Side Effects” is a movie in which the main character’s pharmacological state of mind is never entirely certain. In such a role it’s critical to have someone who can keep an audience guessing as to the state of that mind, moment to moment. How dim, how smart, how foggy, how alert is she supposed to be at any given point in the story? With the right actress those questions take you somewhere, even if you’re blindfolded. With Rooney Mara as the woman in question — a poised, tense Manhattanite prescribed anti-anxiety medication by her psychiatrist with newsworthy results — “Side Effects” finds its ideal performer.

    Awards and Nominations

    Below is a list of all accolades Rooney has received for her role in the film.

    NOMINATED: International Online Cinema Awards – Best Actress