Jason Bateman has made a career of playing guys who can be quite snarky (Identity Thief), as well as quite a few that fit in the classic cinematic straight man category. He kind of has both with Bad Words, which also serves as the actor’s directorial debut.
Bateman is Guy Trilby and he has found a loophole in the rules for the national spelling bee tourney and he’s entering with every determination to win. To say that his presence does not sit well with the organization behind the event, the contestants or their parents is a gross understatement. No one knows why he is doing it, but at the end of the day… he’s there, and he’s winning.
As Guy gets closer to the championship, the most unusual thing happens. He becomes a friend/mentor to a young contestant named Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand, absolutely stellar). Their friendship is at the heart of the film and Bateman brilliantly interweaves their kinship as a fantastic way of showing that Guy is not all bravado and living for bombastically annoying anyone who gets in his way.
The entire story catches the eye of a reporter, played by Kathryn Hahn. She has no real opinion on the journey, and is just there to chronicle it. But, she does get involved with Guy and that certainly complicates things.
What is so fantastic about Andrew Dodge’s script for Bad Words and Bateman’s direction is the audience never really learns why Guy is doing what he is doing until the film’s final moments. The payoff is brilliant, but it is the journey that is the true joy of Bad Words.
Bateman is a gifted director. He knows how to manage the ebbs and flows of a story, especially one that could easily alienate an audience. His character is crass, to say the least. And overall, it’s hard to pull off a charming movie with a less-than-charming lead. But, Bateman does it… both as an actor and as a director.
But, that’s the thing about Bateman. He has played these types of guys before and we love him for it. When he is pissing off a group of parents and we know he is totally on the wrong side of the issue, we somehow are pulling for him to get his way. In fact, in our minds as the collective that is the audience, it should go no other way!
Bateman gets a top notch supporting cast to bring their A-game, including Allison Janney (as the spelling bee executive in charge), Ben Falcone (the Bridesmaids supporting player is a PBS play-by-play man covering the event) and Philip Baker Hall as the man whose tourney it is.
Our Bad Words review finds that the film is more than a laugh a minute comedy that makes you cringe as you LOL. That would be too simple of a description. It is truly an astounding piece of work from a comedic actor at the top of his profession in a film directed by a neophyte who has honed his skills for decades in front of the camera. And the payoff is a movie that won’t easily be forgotten.
Love Jason Bateman? Watch Horrible Bosses online and witness more of his magic!