Identity Thief



Identity Thief
Runtime 112 minutes.
Not for children.

Women are irrational; that’s all there is to that.

Their heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags.

Henry Higgins.

Copyright(c) Universal Pictures

From l, Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy in “Identity Thief.”

Cary Grant was Hollywood’s master at displaying the frustration a reasonable man has in dealing with an irrational woman. He did it with Irene Dunne, Katharine Hepburn, and other leading ladies of the ‘30s and ‘40s.

If Grant has an acceptable successor in the 21st century, it is Jason Bateman. Here he is a husband with a good job who finds his credit destroyed by Melissa McCarthy, who steals his identity and runs wild 2,000 miles away. Jason takes off to find her and reclaim his reputation. Melissa defines what Prof. Higgins thought was irrationality.

Even if a movie isn’t wonderfully terrific throughout, if it contains a line that can make me laugh uncontrollably I will probably give it a good rating. This movie, however, has both. It is wonderfully terrific throughout, and it does contain one line that had me laughing uncontrollably in the movie and still has me laughing when I think about it now.

While Bateman and McCarthy give award-quality performances (forget that, though; when’s the last time a comedy got rewarded by the Academy, It Happened One Night?), the supporting cast is equally good, especially Genesis Rodriguez, who plays a killer pursuing McCarthy (and who delivers the line that had me in stitches) and her partner killer T.I. But they aren’t alone in fine performances; Robert Patrick winningly plays a skiptracer also pursuing McCarthy, and Jon Favreau is deliciously hateful as Bateman’s boss from hell.

Frankly, I wasn’t looking forward to this film. The trailer didn’t entice me and I’m not a fan of McCarthy’s performance in Bridesmaids. I’m a fan now, though. She shows admirable range here.

The film has a brilliant script (Craig Mazin) and direction (Seth Gordon, who directed one of my favorite comedies from 2011, Horrible Bosses). I hesitate to give credit to the line that broke me up to Mazin alone because it might have been the director’s idea to do it the way it’s handled, but Mazin might have written it that way, too. Whatever, this line and the way it’s delivered is so funny and unexpected it epitomizes something that was so perfectly stated by Robert De Niro, playing a man who was clearly based on Irving Thalberg in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon, when he was describing a scene to a fledgling director. He said that a man walks into a room, places a nickel on the table, and then goes on to tell what the man did then, completely ignoring the nickel on the table. After De Niro finishes telling the scene without mentioning the nickel again, the fledgling director scratched his head and asked De Niro, “But what’s the nickel?” De Niro responds, “That’s the movies!”

Runtime 108 minutes.
Not for children.

Saskia Rosendahl in “Lore.”

Saskia Rosendahl in “Lore.”

This is a well-made but disturbing story of a 14-year-old girl (Saskia Rosendahl), her sister, brother, and infant sibling, who are basically abandoned by their German parents after V-E Day in 1945 and have to walk hundreds of miles across the devastated German countryside to find respite with her grandmother in Hamburg.

While it sounds like it could be a great adventure film, it is so stark and realistic that there’s no romance involved. Although it involves a long walk across Germany, this isn’t Saving Private Ryan, but a cinéma-vérité look at what it was like to be German after the annihilation of World War II.

Directed (and co-written with Robin Mukherjee) by Cate Shortland, who was responsible for the remarkably entertaining Somersault, which won multiple awards in 2004 by the Australian Film Institute for best picture and best director, among others, this is a dark, unforgiving story based on the book The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert. Co-starring Kai Malina as the mysterious boy/man who joins Saskia in her trek, while another story of a young woman in a difficult position, this is much blacker and more unrewarding.

There are some sexual scenes and short shots of nudity that make the film inappropriate for children.

The performances by Rosendahl and Malina are very good, but the story is so unremittingly depressing that it’s not the kind of film one would choose for an evening’s entertainment.

Shortland is a talented director, and this film is well done, but I hope that her next choice is more palatable. Movies are an entertainment. While this presents a stark picture of what life was really like in Germany after the end of fighting, it is not pleasant to watch.

In German.

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