Bad Words 2013 ***

Working from a screenplay by Andrew Dodge, Jason Bateman’s directorial debit is a confident comedy-drama, casting him as Guy Trilby, a disaffected 40 year old who enters a spelling-bee for children. His motives are only explained towards the end of Bad Words; up until that point, there’s plenty of Bad Santa-style outrageousness as Guy turns the tables on the kids, ruining their chances while increasing his own odds. Abusing adults and children alike with his verbal barrages, Guy’s journey is a prickly undertaking; Bateman does a good job of keeping Guy recognisably human, even when he’s not acting like one. Support from Phillip Baker Hall and Allison Janney gives Guy a formidable array of authority figures to take on, while Kathryn Hahn does a nice job as Guy’s sidekick Jenny, a journalist who works out the truth about his motives.


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