AUTHOR, JOURNALIST, TV PERSONALITY
A movie with a melodramatic tone interspersed with teen angst and tongue-in-cheek humour needs a good cast, a visionary director and an on-the-ball running time. The Bachelors achieves all three and more.
One thing I must highlight about The Bachelors is that it is a movie that needs you to be in the right frame of mind to make it through to the end without being left feeling emotionally scarred by the movie’s emotional unravelling. This is down to the superb performance from J.K. Simmons, who’s lined up to play Commissioner Gordon in Matt Reeves’ The Batman.
Simmons, better known for his lightweight turns in La La Land, Kung Fu Panda 3 and Terminator Genisys has, of late, sought out vulnerable, damaged characters in films (I’m Not Here), but to date none more damaged than Bill, a father broken by the death of his wife (The Bachelors). From the very first reel to the last, Simmons’ Bill comes across medicated and on the verge of a breakdown, slowly losing his grasp on reality and things that matter around him. The first moment he utters the words, “I can’t stay here any more”, the viewer in just that one sentence can feel his grief, and from thereon in the film becomes a difficult journey about the pain and loss of losing a loved one and how devastatingly destructive and vulnerable the human psyche can be in times of mourning.
Bill quits his teaching job and the house that he shared with his late wife and starts over thanks to the help of Paul (Kevin Dunn), an old college buddy now running a private school for spoiled rich kids in the big city. St. Martin’s is where the grieving father tries to start over and eventually earns the interest of the available wide-eyed French teacher, Carine (Julie Delpy).
This is also where Wes (Josh Wiggins), his son, who can’t afford to grieve thanks to his dad’s state of mind, has to find new friends and his place in the jock-centric food chain. Again, it’s the French teacher who intervenes, putting her advanced newcomer in charge of getting the brooding, failing Lacy fluent in French and prepped for her looming exams. Lacy, played by Odeya Rush, is another winning formula for the film; the twenty-something-year-old, better known as Hannah in Goosebumps, has the looks of Mila Kunis but the versatile acting chops of the underrated Christina Ricci.
Rush’s sub-plot opens up a whole separate set of issues, cutting as an attempt to interrupt strong emotions and pressures that seem impossible to tolerate. The self-injuring sub-plot is another distressing story progression within the already mournful set-up – Bill trying to keep his shaky psyche together and Wes trying to figure out how to deal with his crumbling world and still retain an air of normality for school while playing parent. Adding the disturbed, rich Princess of Darkness into the mix does bring an all-new level of intolerable cruelty to the piece.
Writer-director Kurt Voelker (Park), however, has the knack of providing just the right amount of wit and humour to give his viewer that much needed comfort food to lift the deflating exhaustion of grief just above the palpable level. Not since the early 90s has there been a film set up to work overtime, to solely create a full-out misty-eyed cry fest. The Bachelors overall bottles up the road trip, romance, buddy, father-son bonding and coming-of-age, awkward high-school genre successfully, avoiding falling victim to lazy and tired storytelling methods, and while the film’s conclusion may be a bit too neat for some, there’s a reassuring symmetry to the narrative’s optimistic resolution and it’s certainly a film that lingers in the mind and heart long after the credits have rolled.
The Bachelors is out in cinemas 30 March.
Bulldog Film Distribution
30 March 2023
Review / Published 18 March 2023 @ 20:00 PM
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