Golden Globe Award-winner Jason Bateman (TV's “Arrested Development,” “Hancock”) headlines two consecutive comedies from Warner Bros. Pictures: the laugh-out-loud “Horrible Bosses 2” and the inspiring “This is Where I Leave You.”
|Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.|
In “Horrible Bosses 2,” everyone's favorite working stiffs Nick (Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) rally with an original invention and another run at the American dream. But a slick investor (Christoph Waltz) soon pulls the rug out from under them. Outplayed and desperate, and with no legal recourse, the three would-be entrepreneurs hatch a misguided plan to kidnap the investor’s adult son (Chris Pine) and ransom him to regain control of their company.
Of the three leads, Bateman had arguably the toughest assignment just because, as Nick, he had to keep the smile off his face most of the time — a tall order in this company. “His timing is masterful,” sayss producer Chris Bender. “He knows exactly when to deliver a cutting line or a look that takes the other guys out at the knees for being such boneheads.”
But for all of Nick’s assumptions that he’s in charge and he’s the smart one and the voice of reason, and for all the valid points he does occasionally raise about the pitfalls of what they’re about to do, the fact remains that he always ends up going along with the plan.
Bateman notes, “My job as Nick is to be as close as possible to a representative for the audience, and to react to the absurdity in these scenarios in enough of a realistic way so they don’t think it’s too goofy. But honestly, most people are a lot brighter than these three; most people wouldn’t think that killing their bosses or kidnapping their business partner is the right thing to do, or has the slightest chance of working out well. But if they were smart, this would be a drama.”
Meanwhile, Bateman's other film “This is Where I Leave You” deals his character a series of gut punches in rapid succession. He plays Judd Altman, a presumably happily married and successfully employed radio producer with a comfortable and tastefully furnished New York City apartment. He comes home one day to find his perfect wife in bed with his perfectly loathsome boss, and is rendered loveless, jobless and homeless in one lightning bolt of misery. His resulting downward spiral is only interrupted, days later, by the news that his father has passed away. Still shell-shocked, Judd is summoned back to his childhood home to reconnect with his three contentious adult siblings and their unapologetically outspoken mother, who insists they all spend the next seven days together—and won’t take no for an answer. On its surface, perhaps, not the likeliest scenario for a laugh-out-loud experience and yet, wherever there are momentous, life-altering events, there is family. And where there is family, well…
“It’s a breeding ground for dysfunction,” offers Bateman. “You have people who are very passionate about their positions, be they practical or emotional or ethical, and there’s all that shared history with its resentments and unresolved issues. So it’s not difficult to find these characters in a situation where their dignity starts to unravel and their vulnerability is at such a place where they do and say things that are heartwarmingly hilarious to witness.”
Considering all that Judd has already endured, this sounds like the last thing in the world he needs but, in fact, may be exactly what he needs most. Because sometimes you have to go home to find out where you got lost.
There’s a lot going on in “This is Where I Leave You,” but the narrative thread begins and ends with Judd. “He’s a fairly happy guy,” Bateman says of his character just before the bottom drops out of everything. “He produces a popular radio show, and even though he’d really rather be doing something else, he puts up with it because it allows him this perfect life he’d mapped out for himself. Judd doesn’t have a huge tolerance for complications and spontaneity. And then things start to go sideways—his marriage falls apart, there’s a death in the family—and it knocks him off balance.”
Author Jonathan Tropper whose novel the film is adapted from, conceived of Judd as a man always on the straight and narrow. “He plays it safe so everything will work out the way he’s planned. But when he’s plunged into a state of crisis, Judd starts to feel that all the assumptions he had growing up, and on which he based his entire life, may have been faulty, and maybe he should have been less determined to control the outcome and more invested in discovering his true self.”
“Jason’s performance is a microcosm of the film’s tone as he pivots in the same second from funny to touching,” adds director Shawn Levy.
Concludes Bateman, “Judd’s journey is to figure out if he’s pointed in the right direction, and try to get a clue, or two or three, which he receives through some of the circumstances he goes through and some of the people he interacts with in the film—most of whom are going through much the same exercise.”
Inner photo from Horrible Bosses 2 and main photo from This Is Were I Leave You. Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.