Jason Bateman does bad so good. In his directorial debut for Bad Words, the Arrested Development star plays middle aged Guy Trilby with a chip on his shoulder, a chip so big it threatens to squash the Golden Quill National Spelling Bee. Thanks to a loophole that contestants must not have graduated 8th grade by a certain date (and nope, he didn’t), he is eligible to participate in the tournament. Why a grown man would want to compete against the likes of sweet, if gullible, children and their controlling parents, you will have to watch and see. But Bad Words is definitely one to see.
Bateman brings us on a journey. His snarky wise-cracking foul-mouthed character will make you smirk even if behind his childish behavior lurks some very adult issues. What makes the film special is that it does not pander to conventions of the buddy comedy. Yes, Guy makes “friends” with a 9-year- old contest (playful chemistry). Yes, he has a “relationship” with a woman (quirky dynamics). But Bad Words never changes the true heart of Guy. Like any “guy”, no one can be changed in a few days (or sometimes at all), even if they learn something important about themselves in the process.
Bad Words is great film-making as it sticks with its dark humor and rapid fire pacing. The length of the film is perfect for the material and even if you figure out the twist before the end, you leave the theater feeling satisfied. A great first at bat for Bateman.
Much like Guy Trilby was trying to find his place in the world, Divergent’s Tris (Shailene Woodley) must find hers. Only hers is a futuristic dystopia divided into five factions after a war, each faction performing specific jobs for this new society. At a certain age, teenagers must take a test that places them in one of the five factions. You are divergent if your test shows that you could belong to more than one group. Afraid of free-thinkers, those in high power see divergents as a threat and attempt to eliminate them. Could you be placed in one group for the rest of your life?
Wouldn’t you know it — Tris is divergent. That is no surprise as it is the whole premise of the film, based on the young adult series by author Veronica Roth. Tris makes a choice to hide her test scores and joins a faction that will change her life forever. After all, isn’t life a series of choices? Suddenly thrust into a world of physical and psychological warfare, she must survive her training while hiding her secret and protecting her family.
Tris struggles to build on the popularity of The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen but never quite reaches that level of appeal. Still, she shares an edge and dedication that can be a role model for young girls. Her trainer Four (James Theo) has a leg up on The Hunger Games’ Peeta Mellark and Gale Hawthorne with a rich back story, raw physicality and a hidden but kind heart. His rugged good looks don’t hurt either.
It is a shame really that Divergent did not make a bigger splash in the box office. Maybe it was the 139 minute length that scared people off. It looks like I may have to read Roth’s books to see what happens next. Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant should definitely be entertaining reads to follow another young adult dystopia that is all the rage.
Bad Words: 3 stethoscopes
Divergent: 3 stethoscopes
Dr. Tanya Feke is a family physician and guest columnist for the Record-Journal and Town Times. She has been press credentialed to the LA Film Festival and continues to pursue a love of film. Her reviews are rated on a five stethoscope scale. Follow her blog (www.tanyafeke.com), Facebook page (www.facebook.com/diagnosislife) or twitter (@tanyafeke).