It’s a week after January – the dumping ground for the film industry – and a week before Valentine’s Day. That means it’s time for the studios to squeeze a few new releases in.
The biggest release of the week is Identity Thief, the first leading role film for Oscar nominee Melissa McCarthy. The film stars Jason Bateman as Sandy Patterson, a mild-mannered financial bureaucrat whose world is turned upside down when his identity is stolen. The culprit? Someone going by the name Diana (McCarthy) who’s racking up piles of debt using fake credit cards with Patterson’s name. In order to save his life and protect his family, Sandy flies to Florida to find Diana and bring her back to his home in Colorado to prove his innocence.
The plot of Identity Thief is rather generic, but the saving grace is in the casting. McCarthy has made the most of her limited screen appearances, delivering two of the funniest scenes in the recent This Is 40 and earning a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her scene-stealing role in Bridesmaids. If you think that giving McCarthy a few hours of screen time makes her humor wear thin, you’re mistaken. With help from Bateman, one of the best straight men in comedy, McCarthy turns a fairly predictable story into the first genuinely funny film of the year.
Also hitting theaters this week is Steven Soderbergh’s final theatrical release before retirement, Side Effects. Starring Rooney Mara and Jude Law, Side Effects follows Emily Taylor (Mara) as she deals with her life following husband Martin’s (Channing Tatum) release from prison. With the help of Dr. Jonathan Banks (Law), Emily is able to find a pharmaceutical approach that keeps her calm…aside from some unexpected side effects from her experimental drug. After Emily commits a horrific crime, Dr. Banks finds himself at the center of controversy as his credibility is questioned.
If this is truly Soderbergh’s last theatrical film, he’s going out with a bang. Armed with a remarkable cast that also includes Catherine Zeta-Jones, Soderbergh tells a tale that plays like a modern update of an 80s suspense film. The plot occasionally strains credibility, but only slightly. The twists and turns in the film, though, make this far from predictable. In all, though, this is a well-crafted, well-acted film that will leave audiences hooked.
Finally, in limited release, the French-language drama Café de Flore reached Atlanta this weekend following a successful release in Canada. The film tells two seemingly separate stories. In modern day Montreal, a man named Antoine is torn between a complicated relationship with ex-wife Carole and a budding relationship with new girlfriend Rose. In 1960s Paris, a woman named Jacqueline is protective of her son Laurent, a boy with Down syndrome who has a crush on his friend Véro. Both stories share a common thread of love, and both stories connect in an unusual way. But you’ll have to see it to figure out how. It’s worth the price of admission, though. With a solid cast and heart-wrenching story, Café de Flore is a great choice for filmgoers looking for something different this weekend.