Deconstructing “Side Effects” — A Writer’s Movie…

… even for a novelist.


Especially if the writer is a novelist.

Your assignment, should you decided to accept it, is to get your fanny to the multi-plex and invest nine bucks in your writing career… by seeing this movie.

“Side Effects” was released this weekend (Feb. 9) to glowing reviews, the focus of which is the storytelling.  

Directed by Stephen Soderbergh (Oceans 11 & 12… Good Night and Good Luck… Magic Mike… and enough others to be known as one of our most prolific filmmakers) from a script by  Scott Z. Burns (An Inconvenient Truth… The Bourne Ultimatum… The Informant…  Contagion… among others, including two forthcoming studio tent pole films), the movie has four major stars: Channing Tatum, Rooney Mara (the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo… literally), Jude Law and Catherine Zita-Jones.

This is a major league film on both sides of the camera, created by A-List talent.  That alone is worth the time and money.  But that alone isn’t the primary rationale for our deconstruction exercise.

Enough about the resume, and even the reviews (which are stellar… more on that in a moment)… this is a WRITER’s movie.  A storytelling clinic.  A perfect model for both story structure and story physics.

It’s what the term “watch and learn” was trying to say.

You have two weeks.

In about two weeks I’ll deconstruct this film over a handful of posts (y’all asked… here you go).

Goes without saying, to get the most out of this you really need to see the film.  And based on what there is to learn from it… it just might be the best nine bucks you’ll ever invest (other than my book, of course… just to affirm what my critics are saying about my ego…) in your writing career.

This can change your writing experience in a way that will put you into the hunt for an agent and a publisher.

If you already get it, this will affirm it.  If you are struggling with the principles of story structure and story physics — with storytelling in general — then this just might be your Epiphany.

Two weeks.  Nine bucks.  And then, perhaps a career suddenly empowered in ways that will surprise and delight you.

Oh… about the story.  I encourage you NOT to read the reviews.  Most that I’ve seen have been careful not to reveal too much, which is telling… because the film isn’t what you think it is.  Even saying that, it won’t be what you think it might be.  You’ll think it’s a theme-driven story — and on one level, it absolutely is — but it becomes so much… well, I’ll shut up now.  See for yourself.

It’s that good.  It’s that well written.  It’s that mind-boggling.

And it’s THAT powerful as a writing clinic.

Check out the PREVIEW HERE.  (Only caveat… this R-rated film has sexual content, rough language and some violence.)

Second caveat… you’ll want to see it twice.  The second time as a story pathologist.  Fair warning.


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13 Responses to Deconstructing “Side Effects” — A Writer’s Movie…

  1. Excellent! Deconstruction for the win!

    One question. Who is the original author of this story? I like to get the books of these deconstructions so I can color code them, but I’m seeing multiple authors for this title.

  2. Hmm, UK release date is 15th March, so not much chance of seeing it over here before you do the decon.

  3. Oh yay! Another deconstruction! Can’t wait! If any readers haven’t been lucky enough to catch one of these, you’re in for a treat, and a lesson worth every minute of your time.

    I know I haven’t posted many comments lately, Larry. I’ve been *listening* to my blogs with SoundGecko to try to keep up! But I find that I rarely make it to the sites to make comments. Rest assured, I’m still reading, and will be, as long as you’re writing and sharing your wisdom!

  4. Because I trusted you not to be guilty of over-hype, a buddy and I went to a matinee less than an hour after reading your endorsement.

    They practically needed a crane to lift us from our seats at the end. What a flawless set of mind games. I suggest everyone follow your advice not to read reviews. I’ll add reckless comments to the taboo list. Anyone interested in either fine writing or superb acting — you get both — should just GO and let this extremely contemporary movie envelope you.

    If your jaw doesn’t drop to the floor at least a couple of times, check your pulse. Remember to keep breathing.

  5. Bill Hanger

    Like Shane, I also like to read the book. I looks like we are out of luck with finding a book for this movie. From what I can find the movie is based entirely on the Scott Burns screenplay. The article that I read said that he spent ten years researching and writing it. The article also said that this will be Soderbergh’s last film. Sounds interesting, looks like I’ll be taking the wife to the movies.

  6. @Larry. “Story pathologist.” Interesting metaphor. Slice through a story searching for things gone wrong? I have known only one pathologist intimately and he told me I had cancer. Maybe that pushes on the metaphor a little hard.

  7. I’m horrid with getting out to movies, though I’m planning on checking out Argo as soon as it is available on demand. I’ll shoot for getting out to Side Effects as well.

    Thought I’d toss another idea out there: could we deconstruct a well- known older movie? ( I’m thinking Witness, with Harrison Ford.) Or maybe we can create a small group of takers on this with anyone interested?

    Thnx, Larry, for all you put out there. And to everyone who comments. A serious wealth of info is here for anyone willing to take the time to sift through it!

  8. Matt

    Went to see it tonight and was absolutely blown away. The story was so brilliant that it sucked me in and I couldn’t even think about “structure” at the time, but walking out of the theater, looking back, I realized it was a masterful implementation of every facet you teach. Really looking forward to this series Larry!

  9. @ Shane – story is an original screenplay, by Scott Z. Burns. Screenwriters get structure (if not story physics) better than most novelists… by a mile… so when an A-list writer like Burns creates a 5-star film, like this one… worth a close look. Hope you enjoy. L.

  10. Pingback: Side Effects: master class? | writemybrainsout

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  12. Dee

    I liked the mood, the performances, and the score, but found all the characters unlikeable so I really didn’t feel connected emotionally. I do like that it was about something else entirely then what the title infers.That was a very nice story-telling flip.

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