With an hour and 29 minutes to go before landing this morning, I started watching Bad Words, a film that is 90 minutes long. This was an unintelligent decision, particularly as I had to pause the film for several minutes to shepherd our daughter up and down the aisle. Tonight, after reading to our baby, I rented the film from iTunes to find out what happened in the last minutes I missed. It’s unclear whether this was another stupid decision.
Bad Words centres on Guy Tully, a crop-haired schlub who, at the age of 40, enters a spelling bee contest, out of spite. Although he’s fearsomely rude, it becomes apparent that he’s the least worst person in a film populated by smug, vengeful and venal people, convinced that they’re in the right and Tully is a bad person.
Not that a good person takes a ten year old to drink shots in a bar or look at a prostitute’s breasts. There were worrisome overtones about the relationship between Tully and his rival, a ten-year-old from Cleveland, Ohio, but they’re never addressed. The boy’s father doesn’t question why Tully comes round with a bag of porn maga and ice cream. Then again, in one plot development, the boy doesn’t question why his father, who deserts him at crummy hotels, would drive back to buy him more ice cream. Is there a leitmotif here?
That’s either a stylistic demonstration of families being all the same (pace Tolstoy) or a bit of lazy plotting (along with some funny business with randomized questions in the spelling bee that makes no sense when you consider the logistics).
Or there’s the lazy writing, where Tully and his anonymous journalist accomplice argue, swear they’ll never have sex again … and then cut to them having sex. Oh, the hilarity.
It’s not that I didn’t laugh. But anything with swearing in it makes me laugh. The final fifteen minutes, when a more mawky tone infects proceedings, serves as a let down, but in all honesty, after sixty minutes or so the film has outstayed its welcome.
That’s a shame, because for the first sixty minutes it is tight and funny. If I had only not rented it, Bad Words might have stuck in my head as one of those great films that got away, that I’d always regret missing the end of. As it is, it moved towards letdown rather too quickly in its closing minutes.
But again, what terrific insults! I suppose a lexicographer will always have a good stock of ammunition in any verbal fight.