Music By Thomas Newman
Varese Sarabande VSD-7182
18 Tracks/Disc Time: 38:10
Side Effects is the latest psycho-drama from director Steven Soderburgh, who scored two box office hits last year with the balls out action-thriller, Haywire starring Gina Carano and Ewan McGregor and the male stripper comedy-drama, Magic Mike starring Channing Tatum and Matthew McCaughney. The film stars rising star Rooney Mara (Girl With The Dragon Tattoo remake) as Emily Taylor, who’s husband Martin (Channing Tatum) has just been released from prison and despite the fact of their long awaited reunion, Emily becomes severely depressed with emotional episodes and suicide attempts soon after. Her phsychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law, Contagion) after conferring with her old doctor, eventually prescribes her an experimental new medication, Ablixa. However, its side effects on Emily prove increasingly serious with Emily sleepwalking until she kills her husband while she’s in that state. Emily ends up with a plea bargains into a mental hospital and Dr. Banks’ practice ends up in ruins and the case closed. Unwilling to accept his fault, Dr. Banks starts a personal investigation to clear his name and what follows is a dark quest that threatens to tear what’s left of his life apart even as he discovers the diabolical truth of this tragedy.
This film has all of the elements storywise and visually of Soderburgh’s past films that include The Underneath, Erin Brockovich, Contagion, Traffic and Kafka that create an atmosphere that is both dream like that quickly unravels into a walking nightmare you can’t escape. Adding to the mood of the film and it’s visual style is Academy Award nominee Thomas Newman, riding high from his well deserved nomination from the hit James Bond film, Skyfall returns to a genre that is completely familiar with and has really become inspired through his unique musical sensibilities. Working with Soderburgh previously with the brilliant Golden Age score to The Good German and was the driving musical force in Erin Brockovich, that helped Julia Roberts win her first Oscar with a inspired original score for that film. With this score, Newman really feels at home creating a dream like mood that makes you think musically when the nightmare will begin, then end and be able to wake up again. The music will remind most of his work in the early 90’s like The Player, Whispers In The Dark and Flesh And Bone for example which featured a lot of unique sounds and instrumentation which this score really features alot of.
The score gets off to a moody start with “Very Sick Girl (Main Title)” features a haunting guitar solo backed with a wordless distorted vocalise admist atmospheric and cool electronics and percussion. “Houston Free Meds” is a rythmic track for percussion, electronics and guitar which has a very stark icy sound to it which has a very reminiscent style that of Whispers In The Dark. “”Relativity” a brief track features a warm, almost lullaby feeling to it despite its’ cold icy exterior that was introduced in “Houston Free Meds”. “Another Acquittal” is a highlight track for this score which isn’t all that dissimilar to both “Houston Free Meds” or ” Relativity”, Newman however adds a layer of suspense and tension to this track that is very stark and pulsing with energy the more the track develops. Newman also packs plenty of suspense and atmosphere with tracks such as “Knife”, “Dark & Stormy”, “Poisonous Fog”, and “Salt Water”, which are products of the main theme featured in “Very Sick Girl” and “Another Aquittal”, with George Doering providing some excellent guitar solos throughout. “Malingering” is another highlight and the longest track on this album by far utilizing the music from “Relativity” stretched out to a bigger more developed version of that track that gets better with each listen. “Take Back Tomorrow (End Title)” ends the album just as it opens with a distorted vocalist and a more haunting atmosphere for percussion and electronics.
Varese’s brief album is very effective for what it is, a score that works inconjuction with the film and on its own its a very interesting listen as Newman really does channel the style that really placed him on the map over twenty years ago. It really shows how far he has grown as a composer and that he also loves to continue to experiment with various different sounds depending on each film which reminds me alot of the late Jerry Goldsmith in that regard. The score does get a little too repetitive, but it surprisingly does have thematic work despite its atmospheric undertones. Side Effects is not one of Thomas Newman’s best scores, but it is really an effective one that features his unique and inventive sound and easily one of the reasons why he and director Steven Soderburgh work so well together and hopefully we’ll see them work together again soon. Recommended.