Identity Thief (2012)

Rated R. Our ratings: V 5-; L -6; S/N -.5 Running time: 1 hour 51 min.

Will it be well with you when he searches you out?
Or can you deceive him, as one person deceives
another?
Job 13:9

Jason catches up with Diana.

2012 Universal Pictures

Although at times gross in its humor, director Seth Gordon’s road trip comedy is a nice diversion that manages even a moment of tenderness in one scene. Melissa McCarthy proves, in her role of Diana, the identity thief of the title, that an actress does not have to be slim and sexy to carry a movie—if she has comedic talent. And that she does!

Jason Bateman’s Everyman role as Sandy Patterson is that of an incredibly naïve man. When Diana, posing as a telemarketer, calls him in Denver and easily gets him to “verify” his Social Security number and other personal information in order to rectify a supposed billing mistake. The next thing he knows is that his credit card is refused at a gasoline pump, and then he is pulled over by cops with a warrant for his arrest. His gender-neutral name has made it easy for Diana to mold a fake credit card and driver’s license so that she can indulge in a shopping spree for expensive goods to fill up her home, one crammed with tacky items. Also, “Sandy Patterson” is wanted for jumping bail when she was arrested for being involved in the narcotics trade.

With his job as financial director at a newly formed company now in jeopardy, Sandy makes a deal with the police to journey to Florida, the state in which Diana has been operating, and somehow trick her into returning with him to Denver and, with the police listening in, get her to admit she is the Sandy Patterson who has made all the purchases on the real Sandy’s credit card. Needless to say, Sandy does manage to find her, but things immediately do not go well. Freaked out, Diana manages to flee in his rental car, and when he gives chase, she tries to run him off the road—and so forth in a series of crazy events that include two contract killers sent by the drug lord to kill her and a love-smitten guy called Big Chuck also pursuing her as the girl of his dreams.

The story is about as over the top as your typical Hollywood comedy, but it moves from laughter evoking moments (at least it did for myself and the screening audience that I was a part of) to one tender moment when she talks about her neglected childhood and her feeling of abandonment and worthlessness. During this brief revelatory scene there was not a sound from the audience, won over by now to her side despite her previous unacceptable behavior in which she had shown no concern for what she was doing to the lives of her victims.

When the pair finally does reach Denver each makes a decision that people of conviction will applaud. (I almost wrote “people of faith,” but this film is intended for all who believe in ethical behavior.) The last scene in the film amply shows that both characters have undergone a transformation—and that Diana was not the only one needing to do so. This is hardly a realistic film, but the values it espouses certainly are.

For Reflection/Discussion

1. Describe the two major characters: what are the values of Diana; of Sandy? From what we see of him, how does he also need to change? How is Diana’s name appropriate for her predatory vocation: that is, what was the goddess Diana known for? How might Job’s accusatory question directed to his so-called comforters be addressed to Diana?

2. Have you been asked to provide personal information, either over the phone or through an email purportedly from a company with which you deal? What did you do? If you complied, what were the consequences?

3. What do you think of Diana’s confession to Sandy? Why has it become almost impossible for her to love/respect herself? How do you think her treatment by Sandy and his family help in her rejuvenation?

4. How does the decision that each makes concerning the meeting at Sandy’s company office show that both have changed for the better? That is, what was the concern in their decisions—for their own interests or for the other’s?

5. How did you feel at the end scene? And yet how did Diana’s brief act show that there is still a bit of her old self surviving? Why might this not be necessarily a bad thing?