DVD Guide: 'Side Effects'

Side Effects (R)

Who determines what pills Americans pop? Answer: Attractive but not terribly well-informed young sales reps hired by giant pharmaceutical companies to charm doctors and influence what they prescribe. While physicians claim to be immune to the schmoozing and avalanche of gifts, large and small, evidence exists that many aren't. In this ultra-low-budget indie feature, Katherine Heigl ("Grey's Anatomy") plays an innocent new rep who discovers what's really going on. Eventually, she must choose between her lucrative career (BMW, designer clothes, new house) and exposing the dangers of "Vivexx," a blockbuster drug worth billions in profits that also kills some of those who take it. Heigl (above) pumps life into the film as the fresh-faced heroine, but entertainment is only a mild side effect here. The real mission of writer-director Kathleen Slattery-Moschkau, herself a former drug rep, is to show how corporate greed and the public good can collide, sometimes with tragic results. For the bigger picture, check out the related documentary, "Money Talks: Profits Before Patient Safety" (sideeffectsthemovie.com), where reform-minded physicians spell out the shocking details. It should be required viewing for medical students. "Side Effects" deserves an "A" for social conscience. But as entertainment? Grade: C+

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