‘Bad Words’ can be sensitive too

by Courtney Brown

Imagine a man smearing ketchup all over the face of a middle school girl in front of an audience on the same day that he introduces a ten-year-old to a prostitute and crashes a spelling bee. Who is this man? Most people wouldn’t associate this kind of unbecoming behavior with the charmingly witty Jason Bateman, but it’s true: Bateman is back.

If you were still in diapers during Bateman’s career as a child actor on the television series “Little House on the Prairie,” then you probably fell in love with him as Michael Bluth on the cult comedy series “Arrested Development.” In real life, he has a reputation for being warm, lovable and goofy—so why was Bateman drawn to his most recent, unorthodox project, “Bad Words?” In his directorial debut, Bateman plays the main character, Guy Trilby, in the racy flick.

“It was the first time I had an opportunity to take on a project like this,” Bateman said in a phone interview. “Also, the script had the same dark sense of humor that I have, which came with an obligation to counterbalance it with something human.”

Bateman’s first project to direct came with a lot of specific challenges that he was able to pull off smoothly. As an experienced actor, he knew how to take situations and characters that are unlikable on paper and portray them in a relatable way by exposing their vulnerability.

“There was a specific way I wanted it to come out,” Bateman said. “I planned out every single shot and scene before filming. It’s a little off-center but I think what people are drawn to is the fact that we’re seeing a very raw group of people going through tough times.”

His role as Trilby, for instance, took specific acting. Trilby is not the most traditional protagonist. In fact, the things he did could be considered repulsive and demeaning. However, Bateman made it known that there’s more than meets the eye to this troubled soul.

Bateman describes Trilby as “a character who’s deeply introspective and deeply hurt.”

“Everything from the music to the images we see reflects that,” he said. “The audience can relate because he’s human; we all have this guy in us. We just deal with our problems in rational ways.”

Bateman compared this type of character to Archie Bunker in “All in the Family.”

“He gets away with this inappropriate, snarky behavior because the audience knows that it’s coming from a deeper place,” he said.

Bateman’s appreciation for film was inspired by various eccentric directors in Hollywood, such as Spike Jonze and the Coen brothers. However, directing was a passion he’d wanted to pursue for years. The laborious, challenging and creative effort that goes into directing was described by Bateman as “the greatest thing ever.”

“ I can’t wait to do it again,” he said.

Much like “Arrested Development,” the independent comedy “Bad Words” is geared for a specific audience, meaning it’s not a movie for the whole family. However, for the sake of edgy and eyebrow-raising flicks everywhere, let’s hope this is the start of a fruitful directing career for Bateman.

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Photo courtesy of Barbara Binstein/Abaca/MCT