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Entries in kathryn hahn (2)

Friday
Mar212014

Bad Words

Jason Bateman is one of the most likable people in Hollywood. We may not know how he acts in private, but in films, interviews and other public appearances, he comes off as a charming, lovable goof. It’s that considerable charm that pulls him through some of his otherwise lackluster film and television efforts (“Identity Thief” comes to mind). With this, one can’t help but wonder what he was thinking when he agreed to do “Bad Words.” He’s not good at being bad and, with this being his feature length directorial debut, he doesn’t have the directing chops to make up for it. Not since “Bad Teacher” has a central character been so vile, so hurtful, so unnecessarily mean that he manages to kill any goodwill the film may have had otherwise. It’s going to be hard to top this character’s repugnancy this year and it’s almost certainly destined to be one of the worst of the year.

Guy Trilby (Bateman) is a 40 year old man who finds a loophole in the national children’s spelling bee contest that allows him to enter as a contestant. He even has a sponsor, as all participants must, in the form of Jenny (Kathryn Hahn), a journalist for a nationally recognized online publication. She hopes to get to the root of his motivation, but he’s very reserved in that regard. He doesn’t want to reveal why he’s doing what he’s doing, but he has his reasons.

It’s a fairly weak plot with a thin narrative arc and an even thinner emotional one. Guy is unhappy and treats those around him poorly. To put it plainly, he’s a scumbag and it’s nearly impossible to care about him in any way. A good example of his personality comes early in the film when he’s on an airplane. A sweet Indian kid named Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand) starts talking to him, which, of course, is a minor inconvenience to him, so he proceeds to tell the kid to shut his “curry hole” or he’s going to tell the pilot his bag is ticking. While this is one of the more extreme examples of his pervasive boorishness, it nevertheless captures him well.

This wouldn’t be a problem if his actions were explained. More than anything else, this film needed a gradual reveal. Something needed to happen to open this hateful character up and reveal the man within to help the audience feel empathy, but that doesn’t appear to be on its agenda. Despite a tender moment or two, there’s no gradual reveal of Guy’s motivations. Instead, it’s merely said in passing. Without ruining the reveal itself, Jenny, being the journalist she is, figures out his motivation and his primary goal, to which he replies with the equivalent of, “Good job.” There’s no emotion in this scene, nothing to suggest that the man we see isn’t the man he wants to be.

In fact, when it appears he may build some goodwill, he promptly negates it with his puerile antics. Throughout the tournament, he manipulates kids around him into dropping out or otherwise losing, but as soon as he finds out someone has been manipulating him, he has a childish freak out. When the end rolls around, it’s shown that his actions have had zero repercussions and the closure he alludes to, which is the very reason he went on this strange journey, still appears to be out of grasp. He may take what some may consider the high road at a certain junction in the back half of the film, but it doesn’t negate the numerous low road decisions made prior.

It should also be mentioned that “Bad Words” simply isn’t funny. While a chuckle or two here and there may sneak its way out of some, the vileness of the character always serves as a reminder that the person you’re watching is more worthy of pity than laughs. Guy is a sad excuse for a man and an even sadder excuse for a character that we’re supposedly meant to root for. “Bad Words” is one of the most hateful, mean spirited comedies in recent memory and has close to zero redeeming factors.

Bad Words receives 0.5/5

Friday
Aug262011

Our Idiot Brother

Paul Rudd is an infinitely likable guy. Regardless of what one may think of his movies, I find it hard to believe anyone could look at him as anything other than goofy and lovable. But never has he been more lovable than he is in Our Idiot Brother. His character, Ned, is a shining example of how we should all act. He is unselfish, kind, trusting and he loves those around him. It’s these characteristics that apparently make him an idiot, but if he’s an idiot, sign me up.

From the minute the movie begins, Ned’s kindness is established as he gives a free bowl of strawberries to a little girl passing by his fruit stand. It’s his next act of kindness, however, that lands him jail. He gives weed to a uniformed cop who tricks him into trusting him. Some months later, he is released from jail and heads home, but not before saying his goodbyes to the prison guards (with whom he is now on a first name basis). When he returns, he finds his girlfriend, Janet (Kathryn Hahn), shacked up with a man named Billy (T.J. Miller). It’s enough to make any man lose his temper, but Ned is as polite as can be, especially to Billy. He only wants his dog, Willie Nelson.

Now that he’s out of a home, he is forced to move in with his three sisters, Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), a journalist looking for her first big story, Liz (Emily Mortimer), a stay at home mom who is married to documentary filmmaker, Dylan (Steve Coogan), and Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), a struggling stand-up comic who is in a lesbian relationship with Cindy (Rashida Jones). While none really want him to stay in their homes, they have no choice, so he jumps around at their whim. He lands a job, at Liz’s insistence, working with Dylan on his documentary. He is just happy to be helping and doesn’t think for a minute, despite all the clues, that Dylan may be having an affair with his documentary subject. When he walks in on them naked, he still doesn’t figure it out, buying Dylan’s lie that nudity can sometimes make the interviewee more comfortable.

As is evident, Ned has a naïve view of the world, similar to that of a child. He doesn’t see the infidelity happening in front of his eyes, or the news story in someone’s words, or the humiliation in rejection (after asking someone out and being shot down, he merely smiles and shrugs. “No big deal” he must have been thinking). He always sees the positive side of things and feels bad when he lets someone down. When he turns down a threesome involving another man, he actually apologizes, as if the fact that he is straight is somehow something for which to be sorry. When he counts his money on the subway and hands a wad of cash to the guy next to him to hold, the thought never crosses his mind that that person could rob him. It’s ignorance, sure, but it’s also bliss (as the old saying goes). Some believe that children don’t see evil and are born with an inherent trust in people. If that’s true, then Ned is just a big child.

He’s an intrinsically happy person, which makes a late movie breakdown all the more powerful. At this point in the film, he is being blamed for ruining Liz’s marriage, killing Miranda’s career and destroying Cindy’s love for Natalie. None of those things are his fault, but his sister’s keep telling them they are, which leads him to, for the first and only time, raise his voice. It’s enough to make them feel sorry for what they said and realize how much Ned loves and cares about them; they’ve never seem him act that way and neither have we. So while the resolution feels a bit rushed, it makes sense based on how Ned has acted up to that point.

In a way, Ned is too much of an exaggeration—being blamed simultaneously for such horrific things would break a real family apart—but that’s where his charm lies. He’s willing to forgive and forget, but for him it’s not a choice; he simply doesn’t know any other way. Life is wonderful to him, a belief not expressly stated, but obvious anyway. Why spend it holding grudges? Ned is a clueless individual and at times deserves the idiot moniker, but he loves unconditionally and exudes joy at every possible moment. As it turns out, some idiots can teach you a thing or two.

Our Idiot Brother receives 4/5