If you can’t get that role you’ve always felt like playing, the next best option (or arguably, the better option) is to just make it, right? That is, if you have the name and the money to strike out on your own. And that’s exactly what Jason Bateman has done with Bad Words.
Generally speaking, to this point, the majority of characters Bateman has taken on have been smart, mature, straight-lined men who try to make things work but fail or simply just have to deal with idiots. They do what they can with what they have. As broad as it may seem, that’s kind of the “Bateman type” when it comes to characters in film. But his self-created Bad Words role allows him to depart from this type to take on the rather non-relatable, rough, “evil” twin (but still with a heart and deserving of some sympathy… eventually).
In his directorial debut, Bateman stars as Guy Trilby, a 40-something bachelor and warranty proofreader who has never passed the eighth grade. Lucky for Guy, this allows him to enter a children’s spelling bee. He’s scheming, sarcastic and quick-witted with a rather intimate—and colourful—relationship with vocabulary. He’s not fond of children in general, but he finds a friend in one competitor who is persistent in his attempts to bond with Guy, despite the adult’s super-harsh attempts to shut him down.
When it comes to profanity, insults and cutthroat competition, Bad Words strikes an almost perfect comedic balance. While Guy certainly dishes out cutthroat insults, he endures quite a bit of verbal abuse from contestants’ parents and spelling bee staff, so in a way, it seems OK-ish. (It’s hard to say that I enjoyed every insult when I’m sure I’d think he’s a complete dick if I met him, but hey, that’s the magic of movies, I guess. Plus, it’s Jason Bateman.)
Before reaching theatres, there was talk circulating about how Bad Words is just a way for Bateman to finally be cast as the “bad” guy. But I see no problem in that. After all, to quote Milton Berle, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”
Guy has a heart and a purpose; he’s capable of caring and that’s why he is so brash—he doesn’t want to expose himself or the reason he’s in a child’s spelling bee. He’s aware that his plan isn’t all that clearly thought out, but he goes on anyway, to save face and to pass on the pain to the one person who deserves it most. There’s a reason to his madness; he really is a sympathetic character with a good heart, despite his tough exterior. But that’s all I can say about the kinder side of Guy Trilby.
It’s very possible that this film will completely offend you, but if you’re a Bateman fan to the degree I am, you’ll love every minute and expression—or non-expression.