I couldn't stand the film and felt that it was ultimately a crafty defense of commercial science in keeping with Soderbergh's strangely fanatical creative "spree" in the past few years and the message is getting redundant. He co-produced "We Need to Talk About Kevin" which had basically the same thrust: that the link between many of the prescription "happy pills" and certain modern types of violence is merely a legal defense ruse or the concoction of conspiracy theorists or alt-opportunists. This tack contradicts mounting clinical evidence of an actual link between, for instance, modern "inexplicable" mass civilian shootings and prescription meds. The ultimate message in "Kevin" is that criminality arises from a defective "genetic" caste, a concept with its own fanatical following fueled by pharmaceutical and institutional PR campaigns and with far less scientific evidence to back it up. "Side Effects" is more vague on that issue, though it still contains the same pat, black and white personifications.
Clearly human beings were violent enough prior to the advent of the pharma age but the irony of the drugs is that they had the usual utopian selling point of purporting to "cure" humanity of their criminal instincts. At least Soderbergh isn't pitching this particularly noxious pharmaceutical fallacy. But that doesn't mean he isn't suffering from his own utopian delusions as he single-handedly attempts to "shape" (ala Gladwell's "viral ideas"-- get it? "Contagion"?) public conceptions and the dialogue on commercial science. What he still attempts to preserve-- not surprising for a commercial-film-director-cum-culture-jammer-- is black and white analyses of the human psyche. That sells thrillers, it sells privatized prisons, it sells preemptive war and just about everything lousy-- and it won't hurt drug sales in the end either.
Soderbergh is no idiot though: he knows how to grub for credence by making small concessions. He tells us our criticisms of public health authorities in the US should go "this far but no further"-- a bit like Chomsky said of the New York Times. Like a table cloth trick, our worship of commercial science and public health should remain in place even given a few minor critiques. But yet people without history of violence have gone mad and killed from taking drugs by pharmacy mistake and there were no school shootings by students prior to Charles Whitman's drug-and-tumor addled Bell Tower attacks. 200,000 Americans die from medical mistakes and there are now more suicides than car accidents. Mental illness rates have risen 100 fold in a century and 35 fold among children since Prozac was first marketed. Soderbergh's little concession will do nothing to dent the universal "mental health" screenings now being pushed on the public in the wake of Newtown which will invariably and ironically lead to more drugging. Only the harder truth that goes beyond Soderbergh's culture jam could stop this kind of incursion on rights, so Soderbergh's contributions are merely muddying the waters further.