He's riding on a career high

He's riding on a career high
Tina Fey and Jason Bateman in This Is Where I Leave You

Interviewing celebrities can feel awkward at the best of times. And with a guy like Jason Bateman, the weirdness is magnified.

This is a guy who has built his career on being not the smartest, but the only smart - or sane - guy in the room.

Even just talking to him over the phone, I felt as clumsy and doltish as the characters played by his cast mates in Arrested Development, Horrible Bosses or Identity Thief.

He is just so impossibly poised and savvy that you can't help but feel like a mental klutz in comparison.

That said, he was unfailingly polite when I talked to him over the phone from the Toronto International Film Festival, even when I asked him about his beard.

The 45-year-old grew out his whiskers for his two new films, This Is Where I Leave You and The Longest Week - both of which open here tomorrow.

In This Is Where I Leave You, he plays a radio producer who returns to his hometown for his father's funeral soon after losing his job and his wife.

In The Longest Week, he's the feckless scion of a hotel empire who moves in with his best friend after his parents finally kick him out of the nest.

BEARD

I thought maybe his beard was somehow an important statement. Perhaps emblematic of a new, more serious phase in his career. Like Ben Affleck's beard, remember?

"I don't know," Bateman said. "I forget about The Longest Week.

"But in This Is Where I Leave You, my character has just gone through a break-up, and he doesn't bother shaving for a few weeks."

Is it something we're going to be seeing more of in the future?

"Oh, no," he said. "I sure hope not."

So much for my beard hypothesis.

The one thing you'll notice about both of Bateman's new movies is they are very much about first-world problems.

Bateman's characters are affluent and handsome. They are guys who would seem to have everything, yet nurse a certain sadness and ennui.

Some critics have criticised his latest films as being a bit out of touch with the plight of normal people, many of whom are struggling with larger issues.

Bateman does not see it as a concern.

"There are plenty of films about people who have not had that great a life.

"I'm not smart enough or powerful enough to dictate what films are made about what subjects.

"I'm happy to have a job and play the characters that are written."

Bateman is riding high at this point in his career. Arrested Development was revived for a fourth season, Identity Thief was a huge hit, and Horrible Bosses 2 is coming out shortly.

POSITIVE REVIEWS

Bateman even directed his first film, Bad Words, which has received positive reviews.

Bateman said he is happy with his success, but he is always trying to push towards another level.

He has expressed an interest in working with auteurs like Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master) and Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel).

One would think that the thoughtfulness he puts into his work would put him on the radar of such masters, but he said they are not yet beating a path to his door.

"I'd be really shy to contact them," he said. "Those guys are at the absolute top of their game. What actor wouldn't want to work with them?

"I just patiently wait my turn and try to create opportunities."

jjohnson@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on MONTH DAY, 2014.
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