Friday, November 02, 2012

Starts Okay, Gets Better, Ends Great

So. The trailer for 'Side Effects'. I'm watching this thinking it's so 80s, almost made-for-TV. That title... Come on, that's like a paperback you buy at the airport. You know -- with garish cover art that includes a syringe with a drop hanging off its tip and figures in silhouette running away in the background. That kind of novel. A 'pharmaceutical thriller'? Not so much any more. Been there, done that.

What the hell. I click start anyway and, as the trailer rolls it's looking pretty bad. But, it gets better. Something is there among all that soap-opera build up.

And, yeah, I didn't know it was a Soderbergh property until the end (I'm a little embarrassed to admit), when I saw his name, along with writer Scott Burns, and it came as a relief. Suddenly, the pieces fall into place. Oooh, it's a Soooderbeerrgh movie. It's a throw-back genre, sure, but it's Soderbergh, and he's surely delivered a finely wrought rendition (though you don't get much sense of camera/editing style/technique) of Burns' screenplay and the result will probably be very good. Why else shoot dice on this? It has to be, good that is.

And, really, these guys could do anything, any genre, any type of plot, and make it work, make it entertaining and intellectually invigorating. They've proven it before.

And, as far as performances go, Jude Law gives notice. Bit after bit this guy nails it to the wall. He's so good. He's gone from being a supporting actor -- delivering solid craft and all that, but always in the shadow of a 'star', always second fiddle -- to, these days, a leading man whose involvement means the story will get under your skin and, moment to moment, scenes will ring true, characters will seem like people you might know or, at least, have heard about in real life, maybe in a story you read in the paper or overheard at a party or bar.

It's like the transformation of Matthew McConaughey's career, sort of. The two actors aren't alike, yes, don't play the same kind of roles, I know, but both went from being on the sideline in one respect or another to being pure money, go-to. Just having one of them in your movie gives it weight, makes average people want to see it and movie buffs need to see it, whereas a few years ago it meant the average person might give it a pass and movie buffs might give it a spin as a rental, maybe, sometime.

And, that's what I was thinking, watching this trailer, at the beginning. I was thinking I might rent this for Law's performance (some time down the road). I was thinking he was a cut above and I had to see him despite the movie being what it was, or what I thought it was. No hurry, though.

Then, there's hints of quality. Crumbs, tidbits, of a story you can savor, a plot with a spine, more performances that sizzle and, by the midpoint, I'm wondering how this can look so good, how it can seem so interesting when I'm sure I've seen this stuff, this same movie, over and over in years past, mostly late night on television. Then, at the end, I see Soderbergh's and Burns' names and I can't wait to see the movie. At the theater, thank you very much. By the end, I'm not wondering how a B plot could get made these days, I'm wondering what kind of characters actors like Law, Rooney Mara, and Catherine Zeta-Jones signed on to create, what kind of story Burns wrote, and how well actors like Vinessa Shaw and Channing Tatum hold their own in this environment.

So, yeah, I thought it was boilerplate but I changed my mind. The trailer changed my mind.


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