'Lunchbox,' 'Words' among new film releases

By TOM JOZWIK - Special to TimeOut

April 3, 2014


WAUKESHA - On Friday, “The Lunchbox,” a dramatic film, will join “Bad Words,” a comedy released March 28, in local theaters. Both movies are reviewed below with their ratings.

“The Lunchbox”

(104 minutes, PG)

Ritesh Batra’s “The Lunchbox” is a simple movie, but a thoughtful and delightful one. Filmed in Mumbai and subtitled, it deals with the Indian custom of preparing lunches, then delivering them via courier to workers on the job.

At the outset, a young woman whose marriage is on shaky ground attempts to steady it by making her husband the lunch to beat all others. The meal is mistakenly delivered to an aging widower who much appreciates the dishes he thinks are from a restaurant with which he’s contracted.

Before long, the mistake becomes obvious to both parties. They continue giving and receiving food, however, and also start sending each other notes inside the food containers. The notes become increasingly personal.

The theme of “The Lunchbox” might be expressed in a line voiced by a couple of its actors: “Sometimes the wrong train will get you to the right station.”

Or maybe the message is that love is transformative and comes in such guises as heartfelt advice, charitable action, kindly encouragement and even the occasional white lie.

This tale of a couple randomly tossed together (with a subplot concerning the curmudgeonly male half’s dealings with an ingratiating work assistant) never disappoints, thanks to the acting of Nimrat Kaur as the cook, Irrfan Khan as the curmudgeon and Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the co-worker.

With those likable cast members we experience love and loss, aging and death, self-reinvention and the need for human companionship, as well as more mundane aspects of contemporary Indian life. 

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

“Bad Words”

(89 minutes, R)

Can you spell sophomoric? Hackneyed? Tasteless?

“Bad Words” takes place at and around spelling bees, but the three adjectives in the previous paragraph aren’t intended to show the level of competition. They’re meant to assess the quality of Jason Bateman’s first directed film.

Bateman also stars (but displays little range) in “Bad Words,” speaking plenty of them - a whole lot more than anybody needs to hear. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about this movie is that it’s relatively short.

As an individual who never graduated from elementary school (yet was judged a genius by his school counselor and became a proofreader), Bateman’s Guy Trilby, 40, is eligible to compete with grade schoolers in spelling bees. It’s a promising premise, although Trilby’s reason for competing is revenge. Viewers are expected to be delighted as the worst of the movie’s several repugnant characters boozes it up, corrupts a 10-year-old fellow competitor (Rohan Chand) who has sought his friendship, plays awful tricks on other young rivals and treats the journalist who is his No. 1 supporter downright shabbily. (The journalist is played by Kathryn Hahn, who, along with Allison Janney as a spelling bee director deserves better material.)

Chand’s character, Chaitanya Chopra, is Indian - enabling screenwriter Andrew Dodge to have Trilby call the boy “Slumdog” and threaten to “slaughter (him) like a sacred cow” at the National Quill Spelling Bee. A cameo in which a stripper plies her trade supplements the ethnic insensitivity and pervasive dirty language.

Near movie’s end, the National Quill’s snarling head honcho (Philip Baker Hall) remarks that, because of the abundance of ill will generated by Trilby’s participation, the competition “has devolved into an embarrassment.” As they say, join the club. “Bad Words” had devolved into an embarrassment a good hour earlier.

Rating: 1 1/2 stars