Love and pills often go hand in hand. Everyone needs love and once that lovin’ comes around, people tend to need medication to deal with its nasty side effects, whether it be broken heart, gender confusion, or a sexually transmitted disease. But then what about the side effects of said medication? Well, that’s a whole other bucket of problems, problems that corporate America is only too happy to sweep under the carpet in order to keep jamming harmful chemicals down our throats for the all mighty dollar. So what do you say? Are you ready for a pharmaceutical romantic comedy? You bet you are. Welcome to “Side Effects.”
Karly Hert is a drug dealer. A legal drug dealer, mind you. Not the kind that hangs out in the park waiting to sell you some rock. No, Karly is a pharmaceutical rep and she hangs out in doctors’ offices, pushing the latest medications on the various “medical professionals” so they can, in turn, get their patients hooked on pills with questionable results and even more questionable side effects. Karly’s not even sure what exactly these meds are doing to people, not that she’s a medical professional herself, receiving the kind of training that one should receive if they’re to be slinging medications that will eventually wind up in our bodies. She’s just another lost soul with a crappy job…and she’s had enough of it. Karly makes a plan to quit her job in six months. Supporting her countdown to closing time is a new guy she’s met, Zach. Zach is the perfect guy, he’s kind, considerate, intelligent, stable, loves to build houses (probably on some really good medication) and he’s really into Karly. They court and eventually find themselves in the middle of a loving relationship. At the same time, Karly is all too happy slacking off at her job and even takes to giving doctors brutally frank info about the pills she’s pushing on them, or even better, informing them that she doesn’t really know what the medications are going to do to people and she does it all with a smile. But, as fate would have it, she sees this new attitude taking her sales on an upward swing – kinda like what happened to Dudley Moore in “Crazy People” with his truth in advertising campaign. This upturn in productivity puts her in favor of a certain pharmaceutical company getting ready to launch their new drug. They begin offering her bonus money, cars, jewelry as she quickly becomes their rock star pharmaceutical rep. Karly soon finds herself happily being sucked into the corporate world and her pact to quit repping becomes a fading memory. Her relationship with Zach is also strained as she completely becomes swallowed up by her work, disappearing into her own little world – and we know all about that, right, kids? Karly is on the fast track to misery, it’s just that she doesn’t know it yet, her perception altered by the corporate riches she’s now hooked on.
The romance here is rich and the laughs plentiful, but this is no fluffy romantic comedy with a flimsy theme of big business pharmaceuticals. Filmmaker Kathleen Slattery-Moschkau toiled for years as a pharmaceutical rep herself and, like Karly, became disgusted with her line of work, so she’s made a film that attempts to rip the cover off of the industry and reveal all of its slimy inner-workings and with a healthy dose of humor and romance, she does so with great effect. Helping her accomplish this mission is a charming cast, most notable is Katherine Heigl as Karly whose free spirit is infectious, making her entrapment in the corporate world all the more tragic. Further success will come when people will start approaching their medicine cabinets with a little more wariness after seeing “Side Effects.”
It could happen.