Sunday, July 22, 2007

Review of Side Effects Movie

I finally bought the DVD for the movie "Side Effects." I have been wanting to see this movie for a long time. Dr. Pam Popper at the Wellness Forum introduced me to it, but I haven't had a chance to see it until now.

Side Effects is a movie about the drug industry. It is based on a true story, the budding career of a pharmaceutical sales rep named Kathleen Slattery, who also happens to be the director of this movie.

The story begins with Karly Hert's (Kathleen's character) start in the pharma business. The initial pay and perqs get her excited, but she isn't really good at the job for a while. Finally, she decides to tell the doctors the unvarnished truth about the drugs she's selling, being upfront about all the side effects. It works, and Karly becomes the top sales rep, earning top dollars selling their marque drug, named Vivexx (named suspiciously like Vioxx, the arthritis drug that killed tens of thousands).

Karly finds out that the drug company withheld important side effect information, and does some digging to find out the real facts. She does some great detective work and at the end, makes a difference in a big way (trying to avoid spoilers here).

The movie itself is quite entertaining. That is for one reason and one reason only. Karly is played by Katherine Heigl, who is from Grey's Anatomy on TV and recently starred in Knocked Up. Katherine is an amazing actress. She holds the entire film together. I can sympathize that Kathleen Slattery is a first-time director, and as such, she does an okay job. But the movie has many problems, which can all be traced back to the director. Awkward ten-second scenes that mean nothing, strange interviews with doctors interspersed throughout, and awful performances by almost everyone except Katherine Heigl. The actors who play Karly's boyfriend and her two bosses are especially painful to watch. Again, it's understandable that, with a budget of less than $200,000, you're not going to get great actors to surround a star, but it doesn't make it any easier to watch.

I have one more bone to pick. As a red-blooded guy, it pains me to complain about this, but why does Katherine Heigl have to get undressed on-screen a half-dozen times or more with no connection whatsoever to the plot? It seems like a very cheap way to get our attention. Yes, Katherine has a beautiful body, but even a sex-crazed guy like myself can tell when he's being manipulated.

Having said all that, my wife and I still watched the whole thing and we still liked it. We both thought it was a tribute to one of the best new actresses of the twenty-first century, Katherine Heigl.

And, setting my inner movie critic aside, the story is good and the message is incredibly important. I suggest that, if you want to buy the DVD, you consider getting a combo-pack with Kathleen's companion movie called "Money Talks," which is a documentary on the same issue of pharmaceutical companies' undue influence on doctors.

Both movies are worth watching. We all need to learn more about this issue and find out what we can do to mitigate the risks.

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