In comedy, murder may be the answerBottom Highlights, Movie Review Thursday, July 14th, 2011
MOVIE REVIEW: Last week, gay Newsweek senior writer Ramin Setoodeh tried to rustle up some controversy around Horrible Bosses by writing an article about how Jennifer Aniston’s sociopathic sexual harasser character calls Charlie Day’s character “a little faggot” when he tries to explain all of the ways she’s inappropriate. Setoodeh became infamous after writing in one article that out gay actors can’t convincingly play straight and in another that Glee’s Kurt is so queeny he hurts the gay cause.
He makes the screenwriters defend the use of the word, and then asked various out Hollywood types about whether the use of the word could hurt Aniston’s career. (It won’t. At all.) Setoodeh’s implication is as clear as it is insipid: any use of the word “faggot” is cause for concern.
There are people who think that any use of the word “faggot” should be stopped, and that I shouldn’t even spell the whole word out in print, or even say it out loud. I’m not one of those people, clearly. I think that if we hide the word from the public square, it becomes even more powerful. If we keep the word around and show how evil it is, we can do a lot more good.
And I think the use of the word in Horrible Bosses is perfect. One of the ways that we know Aniston’s character, Dr. Julia Harris, is deserving of death (more on that later) is that she does things like call her victim “a little faggot.”
As one of the screenwriters told Setoodeh, “It’s indefensible. I think part of the challenge is to, in a fairly short amount of time, get these guys to a place where an audience can empathize. To shorthand that, we tried to think: what are the most offensive things they can say? Using a word like that I think is one of them. It says this woman is irredeemable.”
In order for the audience to empathize with our three heroes, Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), each of their bosses needs to be irredeemable. About a third of the way through the movie, one after another, they go from being obnoxious to downright wicked.
Dr. Harris tells Dale that if he doesn’t have sex with her, she’ll tell his fiancée that they did have sex. Nick’s boss Mr. Harken (Kevin Spacey, not stretching as an angry, greedy shark) doesn’t give Nick a promotion and says that he never intended to, that he used the potential for promotion to “motivate” Nick to work 80 hours a week. When Nick threatens to quit, Harken says that he’ll tell any future employer that Nick’s an insubordinate drunk.
Meanwhile, Kurt’s boss Bobby Pellitt (Colin Farrell, in a comb-over wig) is a coke-addled loon who tells Kurt that if he doesn’t choose to fire either the fat or handicapped employee, all three of them will be axed.
After these horrible people become, yes, irredeemable to both the audience and our heroes, Nick, Dale and Kurt go a few steps further than any of us would (I hope) and decide that their bosses deserve to die. The morality of murdering people for being jerks is questioned for about 15 seconds, while half of the 100-minute film focuses on these utterly inept klutzes trying to figure out how to get away with homicide.
In order for this broad, studio comedy to work for a broad, multiplex-going audience, the heroes of the film have to end up being themselves redeemed, or at least prevented from becoming too unlikeable. While I would have preferred to see the film go much darker than it did, how the screenwriters manage the trick of staying within the lines of mainstream morality was fascinating to watch.
Despite the film’s argument that emasculation is justification for murder, I found myself laughing throughout much of it. The threesome of Bateman, Day and Sudeikis feature some excellently timed physical and verbal comedy. All of them are one-trick ponies, and while Bateman is probably the most versatile actor, Day steals most of the scenes with his high-pitched exasperation and his physical explosiveness.
Directed by Seth Gordon
Written by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein
Starring Jason Bateman, Charlie Day
and Jason Sudeikis
At your local multiplex
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