is by all accounts a well-liked actor. He's charming, reliable, and usually hired to play the straight man role for a reason. Would people believe Bateman as the "bad" guy, though? They will after they see his performance in Bad Words, a black comedy he directed and starred in.
Bateman plays Guy Trilby, a 40-year-old manchild with nothing to lose. He has no kids, no wife, and spends his time proofreading the text on pill bottles. Guy also has an unresolved personal issue, which is what leads him to compete in The National Spelling Bee. He finds a loophole in the system -- he didn't graduate the 8th grade -- to compete with a bunch of children. The foulmouthed manchild is intent on winning and, no matter how many people chase him out of schools or curse him off, he won't stop until he has that trophy in his hand.
Guy sounds pretty terrible, right? The thing is, he isn't at all. He maybe swears too much and is completely immature, but screenwriter Andrew Dodge wrote Guy a motive that explains everything. No matter how many kids Guy embarrasses, he remains completely empathetic and, believe it or not, kind of likable. Guy is someone you'd want to hangout with outside of this story.
Bateman and Dodge make you want Guy to win at the end, but he's not the only person you want to see come out on top. Guy befriends a young boy during the competition who he takes under his wing. While it sounds like the cheesy cliche that's going to make Guy open up and have a heart of gold, it's not that at all. The kid is as much of a hellraiser as Dodge. They're a great pairing and the kid actor, Rohan Chand, is as relaxed and charming as Bateman.
Guy keeps you excited over what he'll say or do next. The movie has its surprises, and why Guy is doing what he's doing constitutes as a genuine surprise, and it's all played just right. Again, it's another choice that could have been cheesy, but it's given a smartly modest payoff. There's never any big emotional moment in Bad Words for Guy. It knows it's a dark comedy, and it never loses sight of that.
Bateman has full control over the tone, pace, and camera in his first outing. The movie never lets up with its speedy antihero you fall in love with. Let's hope Bateman sticks with directing, because, just like he is in front of the camera, he's the real deal.