My paying job in life is spent as a computer system administrator (unfortunately it is not writing reviews and columns). Often, I have wondered why I’m in the cubicle jockey life and not tried to find some job where I could use my writing skills more effectively and get paid for it. There is also a lot of bs and chicanery in the corporate world that annoys me to no end. It is little wonder that I was interested in the movie Side Effects which deals with the pharmaceutical sales industry. I wasn’t interested in pharmaceuticals but I was interested to see how one deals with the corporate crap that does go on. It made for an interesting experience.
Karly Hert (played by Katherine Heigl) is a pharmaceutical sales rep. Basically she pushes pills to hospitals and doctors whether they need it or not. Karly has a hard time of it and her sales are not doing well. She meets a fellow sales rep, Zach (played by Lucian McAfee) who decides to quit after the first week. A relationship forms between Karly and Zach as he challenges her views on her work and her life. As a result, she decides to quit her vocation but not for six months. She keeps track of the days on a white board above her bed.
Karly starts by being real to herself and keeping honest with her doctors. As a result, her sales start to rise and she is recognized by her company on the fast track to management. This is fueled heavily by the impending launch of Vivexx who is sending Karly large bonus checks and other indemnities. However, Karly also starts to lose herself. She starts dressing per corporate standard and her attitude suddenly becomes more conservative. As a result, Zach is pushed to the outside as the days start to count down. As the days and the money start to add up, can Karly keep up with her promise to both herself and Zach to break away from the corporate struggles and start a new happy life together?
Have you ever read the back of a box and then watch a movie and not think that you are watching what was advertised? That’s how I exactly feel after watching this movie. The film described on the back mentions nothing about the pharmaceutical industry (you merely assume it from the title and the pills pictured) and spins the movie into romantic comedy territory. There are elements of romance throughout the picture, however it is totally secondary to what the core of this film is: a docu-drama. The drama would be Karly trying to decide what she wants to do with her life. The documentary is meant to show the harms of the industry and what really goes on with all of those new drugs that appear in sample boxes in doctor’s offices around the country.
Once one takes the documentary away from the drama, the actual movie left isn’t half bad. Katherine Heigl turns in a beautiful and well-acted performance and Lucian McAfee isn’t bad for the amount of time he is represented. Temecka Harris who plays Grace also turns a very good and honest performance. The only problem is that there just isn’t much being acted here. It feels very average. The pseudo-documentary portions aren’t bad but there isn’t much here to judge. I think the director did a fine job but I just wished for more substance.
The dvd is presented in 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. The film is shot low-budget indie style but you could easily mistake it for a regular big budget pic. However, the dvd tends to show off a lot of flaws in the editing and mastering department. Colors are decent if you can ignore some of the pixilation. Good for a 1st effort, if she directs future movies, we can hope that the video quality improves.
The film is recorded in 5.1 & 2.0 English Dolby Digital. Even with indie budget concerns, the movie is pretty peppy and the dialog & music fill the speakers pretty well. Dialog is clear and the music is well-chosen. The surrounds aren’t used much but you wouldn’t expect it to be. English and Spanish subtitles are also provided.
- Automatic Trailers: el cantante, Safe Harbour, King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters, Fur, & How to Lose Your Love
- Introduction and Commentary by Writer/Director/Producer Kathleen Slattery-Moschkau: A short forty seven second intro gives some background about the movie. The commentary is screen-specific and Kathleen is extremely happy and proud to talk about her movie. It’s a pretty good commentary and if you are interested in the movie or indy-film making, this will only help to further educate your interests.
- Making of Side Effects Featurette 3:41: This gives us some background information about the movie. Kathleen spent 10 years in the industry and this is where she got her inspiration and research for creating the movie. The shoot only took 16 days and $190,000 to make which should be commended for what was created.
- Outtakes/Bloopers 1:10: A short set of bloopers and other assorted out bits.
- Vivexx Commercial Contests Winners 5:49: A large collection of various commercials that people designed to go along with this fake drug called Vivexx. A lot of good ideas mixed with seriousness and some nice goofs in perfect harmony.
- Deleted Scenes 3:54: Seven different deleted scenes which could be added to the film since it only ran 90 minutes. However, they don’t really add anything except a few extra funny moments.
- Easter Egg 0:21: Can be accessed on the extras menu by clicking one of the pillows (which turns red). A short clip which shows Kathleen Slattery-Moschkau trying to say hello for the intro bit. She’s actually quite attractive when she’s being real. Just personal observation.
Sometimes I wonder how somebody gets the job for writing the back of dvd boxes or giving a spin for the trailers that appear on television or in front of other movies. In this case, they certainly don’t sit or speak with the director and find out what she would like to see. In such, we get a romantic comedy which is nothing more than a docu-drama. Once, we strip away the documentary portions of the movie, we are left with a very average drama. There are decent performances to be had, especially from the likes of Katherine Heigl and Temeceka Harris. But the main problem is that there just isn’t much a movie. The disc is decent and has enough extras if you are considering finding out more about the movie. It did even inspire me to possibly start my own board and think about finding a more fulfilling career. In such, I find myself in a difficult spot, somewhere between recommending the movie and not recommending it. I’ll let my thoughts go on siding with the more positive message and hope that the next dvd New Line decides to put out has a more accurate box description.