The Bitter Dads' Club

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Dokoupil

A new wave of burned-out fathers is coming to screens--and they're angrier than ever.

American dads have never had much to complain about. For decades--make that centuries--they were one-act parents, their main physical role completed at conception, and their main financial one performed at arm's length. But as fathers have begun to share the hands-on work of raising children, a kind of emotional geyser has begun to erupt in the male mind. Just as the narrative for mothers has evolved from "Baby bliss!" to I-feel-like-a-bad-mom confessionals, now fathers' stories are skipping from new-dad contentment to soul-weary tirades.

We've already seen the shift on bookshelves, where the cliche of crying at the birth of a child (a staple of dad lit circa 2007) has curdled into "the odd Murderous Impulse" (Michael Lewis's 2009 memoir, Home Game) and, most recently, "hot crimson rage" (Adam Mansbach's satiric children's book, Go the F**k to Sleep) produced by actual parenting.

Now the disgruntled American dad is coming to the screen, too. The Change-Up, in theaters Aug. 5, is perhaps the purest test of the rising temperature on father's side of the bed. Jason Bateman plays Dave, an overworked lawyer and father of three who compares raising kids to "living with little mini-heroin addicts." They're "laughing one minute and they're crying the next, and then they're trying to kill themselves in your bathroom for no good reason. They're very mean and selfish and burdensome, and they burn through your money and they break s--t."

Meanwhile, his friend Mitch, played by Ryan Reynolds, is an underemployed tomcat. One young lady comes over to his apartment nude but for a long coat. Another calls only at 3 a.m. Then the two men wake up in each other's bodies, and the married man's fantasy of the good life supposedly begins. …