Friday, 4 September 2015

Bad Words

I recently reviewed Russell Crowe’s directorial debut The Water Diviner and was amused by how much of an ego trip the whole thing was. And it got me thinking about actors directing their own work – I assume it’s a difficult process. Sure, they know what they want for their film better than anyone but there must be a bit of bias for yourself. This was evident in The Water Diviner which I compared to being Russell Crowe: The Movie. But it’s not evident in the brilliant Bad Words, directorial debut of actor Jason Bateman.

Bad Words, out now on Blu-ray and DVD, tells the story of Guy Trilby. Through a loophole, the cantankerous and offensive Guy has managed to win a spot in the Golden Quill Spelling Bee at age 40 – despite all the other contestants being children. In doing so, he’s made enemies of everyone else in the Spelling Bee world and is considered scum for crushing many of these children’s dreams and confidence by making it to the final ahead of them. But along the way, he befriends another young contestant; Chaitanya (Rohan Chand, soon to be seen as Mowgli in the upcoming Jungle Book: Origins). Will Chaitanya make him realise the error of his ways and perhaps find a heart under his nasty exterior? Of course, this side of the story isn’t the most original – films like Bad Santa and the recent St. Vincent have been similar in their themes of young-boy-befriends-grumpy-man-and-changes-him. It’s always been a popular theme in comedy, and sometimes feels tired and overused. But Bad Words feels very fresh. 

Bad Words is dark. The humour is often extremely offensive and most things from Guy’s mouth will either make you cringe or laugh hysterically, depending on your sense of humour. When Jason Bateman purchased the rights to the Bad Words screenplay with intent to direct, he wasn’t planning on even being in the film. But when nobody else would take the role of Guy, he was the only person who would! That tells you all you need to know about the character. But having watched the film, I can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job – Bateman has always been good at playing dry, sarcastic and cynical characters. This film has given him a chance to use those traits with offensive dialogue on top which is a match made in heaven. I was reminded of Murray’s character in Groundhog Day. Just with more racism, sexism and general aggression! Rohan Chand is phenomenal as Chaitanya, the young boy who befriends Guy. Their relationship brings a lot of the best laughs of the film, and their chemistry is spot-on. Bateman directs with great confidence and style here too, making a very visually interesting and well-paced piece. Not a moment in the film is wasted and at approximately 85 minutes, the film doesn’t even begin to outstay its welcome. And the bleak colour palette compliments the dark tone of the film well, making Bad Words more than your average cliché comedy film. Visually, and in the cast, it feels like an indie film. And it’s charming – in its own little way.

In conclusion, I was very surprised and impressed by Bad Words. Despite being a big fan of Bateman, I just wasn’t expecting much from it – especially considering the time it’s taken to get to us in the UK and with such a silent release. It played in cinemas in US for 11 weeks and made millions, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t even theatrically released here. And it’s been rather quietly pushed out onto home release now, almost 2 years on. Like Joe Carnahan’s Stretch, this is a highly original and unique American comedy that could’ve been a lot bigger here if it had been handled correctly and given a theatrical release.

Bad Words is very offensive but very entertaining. And like Guy himself; beneath the rough, cruel exterior there does sit a warm heart. And with such an original story too, there’s a lot here to recommend.

Bad Words is thankfully not a bad film, and earns a solid 4/5.


 Sam Love

Bad Words at CeX

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