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The great problem with talking about Steven Soderbergh’s latest (and putatively his last) film, SIDE EFFECTS, is that it would be criminal to give away any of the fiendishly clever plot twists involved. This is an elegantly executed sleight-of-hand that hinges on something most people have never thought about: why is it, exactly, that we believe some people and not others? The story revolves around that question, and the more it spins, the more troubling it becomes, and not just because of the classically Hitchcockian device of having an innocent bystander become embroiled in the machinations of sociopaths passing as sane. Every assumption made by reasonable people in the course of a day is challenged, and there is something about Soderbergh’s impersonal style that makes what unfolds all the more horrifying for the complete lack of empathy involved.
All in all, it was a relief to have SIDE EFFECT’s co-producer/consulting forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Sasha Berney, come through San Francisco for the press tour, instead of the writer or director or one of the fine actors (Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum). We were able to keep the conversation strictly about the pathologies that the film explores, as well as how a forensic psychiatrist goes from Bellvue to Hollywood. And, no, I didn’t ask him the obvious question about the similarities between the two. I did ask him about the power of the media, the fascinating concept of situational sanity, and where his cameo in the film is to be found.
You can listen to our conversation here (17:29) Full review of SIDE EFFECT can be found here.