Reel Critics: 'Identity' theft is no laughing matter

In my final years in the public defender's office, identity theft became a factor for many clients wrongly accused of crimes. Someone would be arrested for a crime while possessing false identification in the client's name. After making bail, the criminals would disappear while a warrant was issued for the real person whose ID they had stolen.

I saw firsthand the devastation in the lives of these victims. On top of false criminal charges, the real criminal could destroy the victim financially by using their credit cards or taking out loans in the victim's name. It can take months or years to unravel the damage.

There is nothing funny about this horrific crime. So it's very hard to relate to the obtuse humor in the movie "Identity Thief." Melissa McCarthy of "Bridesmaids" fame does a great job in a thankless role as the thief who ruins people's lives just to go shopping. Jason Bateman is her latest victim bent on tracking her down to seek revenge.

Their chemistry creates a few hysterical scenes. But this strange buddy road trip goes from serious to silly to preposterous in short order.


'Side Effects' keeps us off center

"Side Effects" opens with a shot of an overturned chair and a trail of bloody footprints. At once, we are intrigued.

Steven Soderbergh's new psychological thriller is about Emily (Rooney Mara), a young woman struggling with severe depression after her husband (Channing Tatum) is released from prison for insider trading.

After Emily plows her car into a brick wall, psychologist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) meets her in the emergency room, and she agrees to regular treatment. He prescribes her several different anti-depressants, each with its own set of side effects that send this "wounded bird" into a deeper tailspin.

That is, until Emily starts taking Ablixa, a wonder drug aggressively marketed everywhere. Emily tells Dr. Banks she feels like her old self and pleads to stay on the drug in spite of some strange new symptoms, all of which spell trouble.

Mara, the petite dynamo in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," gives another complex performance. Law is excellent as the kindly doctor whose personal and professional life dramatically crashes because of his patient. His dogged efforts to clear himself make for the best parts of the film.

"Side Effects" is an enjoyable potboiler with twists upon twists, as well as a cautionary tale against living better through chemicals.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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