"I couldn't believe that I couldn't figure it out when I was reading it; that was the thing," Catherine Zeta-Jones said last night at the New York premiere of her new film, Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects. "I read a lot of scripts, and I see a lot of movies. Usually you can anticipate the beginning, middle, and end. With this, I just couldn't."
When Side Effects sees wide release a week from today, Zeta-Jones will surely find herself in good company. It's the twistiest psychological thriller in recent memory—maybe even since 1997, when her husband, Michael Douglas, starred in David Fincher's The Game. A minimal description (which is what you'll want to walk in with): Rooney Mara plays Emily Taylor, a 28-year-old woman having difficulty managing her depression in the wake of her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum)'s release from prison for insider trading. Her psychiatrist, Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) prescribes an experimental new treatment, the effects of which are profound and disturbing.
"I thought it was smart and fun, and I don't think they make movies like that anymore," Mara, in a showstopping snow-white Alexander McQueen dress, said. "They don't really make straight thrillers anymore; there's always action scenes." Was she relieved to get a break from the physically demanding fight choreography for this role?
"No, I love the kickboxing!"
Vinessa Shaw, who plays Dr. Banks' put-together and put-upon wife, Dierdre, was well prepared for her role—her father is a psychologist. "Actually, he gave me an article that was in the LA Times featuring the side effects of prescription drugs. He was like, ‘Wow, how perfect,' Shaw explained. "He was keeping an eye out for me, making sure I was prepared, as dads do."
When we ran across Dr. Sasha Bardey, a psychiatrist who consulted on and co-produced the film, we were curious as to what experimental treatments are currently on the forefront of actual psychiatric studies—and surprised by his answer. "What's in development a lot is a drug which has been abused a lot—ketamine, special K, which was originally used years ago as a therapy aid," he answered cheerfully. "And now they're beginning to realize it might be a really effective and wonderful treatment for depression, because of its impact on the glutamate receptor in the brain..."
Dr. Bardey caught himself. "I'm getting technical!" We assured him that we could remember far enough back to college psychology classes, and the occasional WebMD spree, to get the gist. "Our patients are a lot smarter now, the Internet has made people very well informed," he said. "Sometimes misinformed. But it sparks a dialogue."
After the film, a distinguished group of guests including Michael Kors, Matt Damon, Paul Haggis, and A$AP Rocky headed over to the Time Warner Center's Stone Rose Lounge to engage in a little more tried-and-true self-medication—namely, Grey Goose cocktails and deviled eggs. —Alexandria Symonds