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Film / Bad Words

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"I'm not that good at a lot of stuff. Especially thinking things through. And that's why this plan was so shitty. But, my feelings were hurt, and I'm glad I at least did something about it. Making bad decisions is nothing new to me."

"Bad Words" is a 2013 Black Comedy starring and directed by Jason Bateman.

Guy Trilby manages to qualify himself for the children's Golden Quill Spelling Bee competition, with the objective of making it to the National Spelling Bee. The problem with this is that he's an adult, 40 years old at the time he attempts this plan. Despite initial opposition and his own better judgment, he manages to get in on a technicality with the help of a reporter of an internet news site, Jenny Widgeon (played by Kathryn Hahn). After winning that tournament and the next two subsequent, he makes it to the National Spelling Bee.

On the plane, he meets Chaitanya Chopra, a fellow competitor and a ten-year old child, who becomes friends with Trilby more or less against the protagonist's will. During the National Spelling Bee and his stay in the hotel, Trilby shows Chaitanya the wilder side of life while learning a little bit about himself.

WARNING: Since the film relies heavily on twists and reveals, this page is a veritable minefield of spoilers. Be cautious.

The film provide examples of:

  • All the Other Reindeer: Chaitanya suffers from this, and as a result, Guy Trilby is his Only Friend.
  • Batman Gambit: Chaitanya befriending Guy is one that's banking on the latter growing so affectionate to the former that Guy would let Chaitanya win the competition. It falls apart when Guy overhears it and chews Chaitanya out. Their relationship gets better, though.
  • Becoming the Mask: Chaitanya actually starts to see Guy as his friend — his Only Friend ever, in fact — when he at first intended to manipulate him at his father's behest.
  • Big "NO!": The last speller to get eliminated during the final round of the bee pulls this after spelling the word and realizing he'd misspelled it right before the bell dings.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Guy is far from the most sympathetic character on the block, but compare him to his father Dr. Bowman.
  • Black Comedy: A lighter example than most.
  • Bland-Name Product: "National Public Television" is clearly supposed to be PBS.
  • Bollywood Nerd: Chaitanya. Lampshaded when Guy calls him "Slumdog."
  • Brick Joke: Guy mentions that he had a mini toy car which he would pretend to chase bad guys with. At the end, Guy purchases a police cruiser with his half of the winnings and invites Chaitanya to chase down "bad guys" i.e, boys who were bullying Chaitanya.
  • Car Hood Sliding: In the opening credits, Guy is being chased by an angry mob of parents after winning the regional spelling bee and performs a hood slide on the car waiting for him to get in the passenger seat in order to get away.
  • Calling the Old Man Out:
    • Guy's whole plan is to stick it to his father who abandoned him, Dr. Bowman.
    • Guy also does this to Chaitanya's father, once he overhears their Batman Gambit.
  • Cheerful Child: Chaitanya. Who is nothing short of adorable.
  • Children Are Innocent: Chaitanya:
    • He deduces the basic meaning of word "autofellatio", as "self" + "sucking", but he didn't know the word before Guy said it to him and never does grasp the sexual meaning of it.
    • He also tells Guy, while stating his intent to defeat him in the tournament, "I'm totally gonna bust your nut!"
  • Cluster F-Bomb: There is no lack of cussing in the movie. Especially from Guy. After a woman calls him an asshole in front of Chaitanya, for instance:
    Guy: (indicating Chaitanya) "That is a child."
    Woman: "It is. And I'm sure he's heard even worse from you."
    Woman: (scoffs) "Oh is that right?"
    Guy: "Yes that's right. So why don't you take your potty mouth, go locate your pre-teen cock-sucker son, and stuff him back up that old blown-out sweatsock of a vagina and screw off to whatever shitcaking town you came from, can you do that for me?"
  • Companion Cube: T.O.D.D. is one to Chaitanya, which is why he was devastated when Guy burned "him".
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Guy alludes to it numerous times; he never knew his father, and his mother "cussed a lot," moved around a lot to dodge rent, preventing Guy from really having any friends, and when he signed up for his first spelling bee, his mother burned his favorite dictionary. As a result, he acted out in school, by which the counselor of the school during his eighth grade year called him a useless loser note . As a result, Guy dropped out of school and never made it past the eighth grade as a result of it.
  • Defeat by Modesty: Guy gets rid of one competitor by using red powder on her seat to fake her period, causing her to flee the stadium in embarrassment.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The sepia-toned aesthetic, which is meant to homage retro dramedies.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Neither Chaitanya nor his father thought that Chaitanya would grow that same affection back — and Chaitanya splits half his money with Guy as a result of it.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Guy convinces one of the children he's sitting next to, whose dad said disparaging remarks about him that the kid repeated, that he slept with the child's mother and that the kid's parents are getting a divorce. He does so by handing the child a pair of panties (actually Jenny's) and telling him they belonged to his mom. And then the kid had to spell his next word after it was used in a sentence that had the words "her many suitors" in it. Predictably, the kid fails it.
  • Disappeared Dad: Guy's father, Dr. Bowman.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Guy tricks Chaitanya into winning the spelling bee after realizing how ill-thought out his revenge plan was, the duo reconcile with Chaitanya giving his half of the reward money to Guy, he also reconciles with Dr. Bowman, and is implied to have started a relationship with Jenny. He then buys a police cruiser with his half and him and Chaitanya chase bullies with their car.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: We're not given much clue into why Guy is doing what he's doing until the very end, in which it's revealed that Guy is Dr. Bowman's son. Combined with the fragments of Guy's less-than-pleasant past that pop up throughout the film and it ends up giving everything he does a new light upon a rewatch.
  • Foreshadowing:
    Chaitanya: "Not everything is about winning."
    Guy: "I know that's true. Closure is pretty nice too."
  • Gilligan Cut: Jenny and Guy get into an argument, during which she says "I wouldn't let you near my vagina again if you gave me a million dollars!" Well...
    Jenny: (in the shower with Guy) "Don't look at me!"
  • Groin Attack:
    • The duo put a lobster in a toilet and run away as a man comes out with the lobster pinching his balls.
    • Inflicted on Guy by Chaitanya. It's even repeated three times from three different angles.
  • Heel Realization:
    • The narration is one long heel realization from Guy as he goes over how ill-thought out his plan was. Also at the end, before Guy tricks Chaitanya into winning the bee, he sees the latter's father ready to be disappointed in him if he loses.
    • Chaitanya has one as well, even before Guy chews him out. It leads to Chaitanya attempting to throw the spelling bee for Guy, so the kid could have his only friend back.
  • In Love with the Mark: Chaitanya isn't in love with Guy. However, his father wanted Guy to become attached to the kid so Guy would throw the spelling bee for him, and Chaitanya went along with it to please his father. But then he and Guy became legitimate friends — the Only Friend Chaitanya has ever made, in fact — which makes Guy's reaction all the more devastating when he finds out about it.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Jenny Widgeon, when she and Guy have sex for what is apparently the second time.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Guy Trilby and Chitanya Chopra, who are 40 and 10, respectively.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Jenny Widgeon, enough so that she helped Guy get into the kid's spelling bee competition in the first place because she'd get a story out of it.
  • Jerkass: Guy Trilby is a piece of work when we first meet him.
    Chaitanya: "My favorite word is 'subjugate.' It just sounds so cool.... What's yours?"
    Guy: "Can it be 'shut the fuck up'?"
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Guy proves himself to be this over time. Especially in the end, when the throws the spelling bee via Loophole Abuse after he sees Chaitanya's father would be disappointed in the kid if Chaitanya lost.
  • Left the Background Music On: Guy's classical music, which stops and/or gets tinnier once he takes his earbuds out.
  • Loophole Abuse: How Guy's even in the spelling bees to begin with. Later used by Guy in order to disqualify himself and let Chaitanya win.
  • Mood Whiplash: After kicking Guy in the balls, Chaitanya picks up a chair and accidentally hits Dr. Bowman with it. The signal then cuts out after several seconds of stunned silence, complete with color bars and an old-timey "Please Stand By" card with muzak. Then it keeps cutting randomly between the Spelling Bee, commercials for the channel, and the color bars.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Guy.
    Guy: (while talking to Chaitanya on the plane) "If you don't point your curry hole that way, and sit your fucking ass back down in that seat, I'm gonna tell the captain that your bag is ticking."
  • The Plan:
    • Guy's plan is to get into the nationals in order to embarrass his Disappeared Dad Dr. Bowman and destroy the legacy of his spelling bee.
    • Also, there's Chaitanya's dad's plan to get Chaitanya to befriend Guy so that the latter would throw the spelling bee.
  • The Reveal: Guy's dad is Dr. Bowman, the head of the organization running the Golden Quill tournament. In a deathbed confession, Guy's mom told him that Bowman ran off when Guy's mother told him she was pregnant. The entire reason Guy is at the tournament to begin with is to humiliate his father and destroy the integrity of his spelling bee to get back at him.
    • Also, Chaitanya only pretending to be friends with Guy so that he'd deliberately blow it and let him win.
  • Revenge: Of the non-violent sort, but that's essentially the entire reason Guy is at that particular spelling bee in the first place. He even planned to appear on it during its first televised competition, just to ruin his father's pet project.
  • Riding into the Sunset: Driving after bullies in a police cruiser.
  • Running Gag: Jenny's "Don't look at me!" when she's having sex with Guy.
  • Serious Business: Spelling bees. Truth in Television, as some kids and parents study intensely; this also applies to Guy, but for different reasons.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: It happens from time to time. But this movie does take place at a spelling bee.
    Chaitanya: "I wanted to know if you wanted some alimentation for hyperphagia. I'm hungry."
  • Smarter Than You Look: Guy actually does have genius-level intelligence. In an innocuous test Jenny gives him, for instance:
    Jenny: "I was wondering what the grammatical significance of that sentence is. 'Why run from fire ants?'"
    Guy: "Well, every vowel's in there, starting with the u, going to the a. Right, it's backwards?"
    Jenny: (surprised) "...Well, I guess it's pretty easy, y'know, for a sentence. Y'know, I wish there was one word that had all the vowels in it in alphabetical order."
    Guy: "Facetious."
    Jenny: "Son of a bitch."
  • Tempting Fate: Dr. Bernice Janning tells the crowd complaining to her about Guy's participation in the spelling bee that she would abdicate her position if he made it to the final round. But then he does. She doesn't quit, but it's revealed that she tampered with the list of words, deliberately giving Guy exceedingly long words compared to the other competitors, and she's removed anyway.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Dr. Bernice Janning spends most of her screentime being a complete ass, most especially to the word announcer at the competition. When she refuses to quit after Guy makes it to the final round, said word announcer reveals that he can prove she altered the word list to stack the deck against Guy, leading to her being fired anyway.
    Announcer: "You're done. Did I enunciate that clearly enough?"
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy:
    • The reason Guy's doing the spelling bee to begin with is to get back at his father: Dr. Bowman. Though their relationship gets better.
    • Also, the reason Chaitanya goes along with the plan is to please his father.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Guy gives one to Chaitanya, when he finds out about Chaitanya's plan to pretend to be friends with him.
  • Wham Line: "Well, there's a part in there about me being your son."