THE BLOG
03/13/2014 07:44 am ET Updated May 13, 2014

Week in Film: Bad Words, Need for Speed and more

2014-03-13-badwords.jpg

OK. I'll admit it: My favorite film this week is also the most transgressive. It's full of vicious one-liners that are guaranteed to offend, well, the easily offended.

Jason Bateman makes his directing debut with Bad Words, the rudest comedy about an adult dealing with kids since Bad Santa. The script by Andrew Dodge is pointedly provocative: sexually, racially, ethnically and any other kind of descriptive qualifier you might come up with.

Bateman plays Guy Trilby, who has made it his mission to win the national spelling bee. Against kids. He's found a loophole that allows him to compete, despite the fact that he is crushing the dreams of the children he's contending against - and, more explosively, the dreams of their parents.

Why? He eventually reveals a reason, but that's of less importance than the mission itself. And to get there, he is willing to endure insults and obstacles, except for the one he's not prepared for: a friend.

The new acquaintance is a young competitor named Chaitanya Chopra (played by Rohan Chand), who cheerfully endures all of Guy's corrosive one-liners in an effort to be his buddy. The hard-shelled Guy, who already has a weird relationship with his media sponsor (a blogger with very funny sexual appetites, played by the delightful Kathryn Hahn) eventually can't resist the wide-eyed kid, but that doesn't rob him of his power to shock with wickedly funny jibes at everyone within spitting distance.

Make no mistake: The humor is nasty, in all senses of the word. But I'm a sucker for a truly vulgar, unhinged comedy like this - and no one delivers these poison-tipped verbal darts with the kind of deadpan sangfroid as Bateman. It's probably the funniest movie I will see this year.

I enjoyed On My Way, Emmanuelle Bercot's road movie starring the eternal Catherine Deneuve. She plays a former beauty queen living in a provincial town, running a failing restaurant with her mother. Divorced and recently dumped by her long-time lover, she is forced by her estranged daughter to run an errand for her: driving the grandson she barely knows to the home of his paternal grandparents.

She hits the road and immediately gets lost on French back roads on a slow summery weekend. She encounters and becomes entangled with a variety of unexpected characters, eventually picking up the sullen grandson and delivering him to the other grandparents, who she's never met.

The plotting is minimal; instead, it's about the chemistry of this self-possessed but reticent woman, engaging with life in ways that are new to her, or in a manner of which she never assumed herself capable. Deneuve sparkles, even as she gets more and more disheveled on a daytrip that turns into a lengthy excursion. It's as varied and broad a character as I've seen this luminous actress play in a long time.

This review continues on my website.