I assumed wrong. Side Effects is far more elegantly creepy and memorable than that. I won't say more, except (a) I am relieved to see that the Atlantic's own film expert Christopher Orr reacted in the same way, and (b) you won't regret making time for this. (And, before you ask, this originally R-rated movie was not being shown overhead to all passengers; it was on the little personal screen.)
2) For reasons that will be evident if you see Side Effects, I found myself thinking about The Usual Suspects; which of course led to thoughts of Kevin Spacey; which in turn led to thoughts of Netflix's House of Cards, in which he stars with Rooney Mara's (less elegantly alarming) sister Kate Mara.
Here's one thought about Kevin Spacey: I contend that for many American men he holds a place similar to Jack Nicholson's a generation ago, and maybe Humphrey Bogart's before that. He comes across on screen the way you imagine the idealized tough-guy version of yourself coming across, in some fancified other existence in which you were an idealized tough guy. But I digress. Anyone who eats up the serialized dramas of today's golden era of Dickensian/Tolstoyan TV -- from The Sopranos and The Wire (still the best) to Mad Men and Breaking Bad and the rest -- has to consider this a worthy new entry.
With one exception: the guy they cast as President of the United States (right) just is not plausible in that role. No offense to the actor, Michael Gill. I assume he's doing what the director wants. But real-life presidents, whatever their oddities and limitations, display some edge of seriousness, intensity, cunning that lets you understand how they got where they are. Even ones that don't start out that way unavoidably become different and weightier-seeming people in office -- in part because of the nonstop flow of choices only they can make. You see a similar transformation in the character of Raymond Tusk in the final episodes of House of Cards. At first, he is an amiable sage of the prairie. Then, you see the edge.
There is none of that in "President" Garrett Walker. He's an assistant secretary, maybe a Senator. This is a great series, with one odd casting hole.
Or, maybe it's that next to Kevin Spacey, everyone else seems edge-less.
Back to policy soon.
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