The Bachelors

 

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A film that portrays coping with bereavement but suffers from a split personality.


Bachelors, The

Josh Wiggins and Odeya Rush

 

Making a fair assessment of this film is unusually difficult because its storytelling fluctuates between two levels. The tale told by Kurt Voelker as writer/director is one that stems from the death of a devoted wife and mother due to cancer after thirty-three years of marriage. The widower is Bill Palet (a bearded J. K. Simmons). He is a teacher who welcomes the chance offered by a headmaster, an old acquaintance, to move to California and to take up a post there. However, the change of scene does nothing to alleviate his deep and continuing grief although in time Bill does become friendly with Carine Roussel (Julie Delpy) who, having come from France, teaches French in this school. Bill's teenage son, Wes (Josh Wiggins), is now one of those in her class and, more successful than his father in overcoming their loss, he makes friends among the students and eventually finds himself attracted to a fellow pupil, Lacy (Odeya Rush). Lacy is a troubled girl suffering from tensions at home since her parents are in the process of divorcing.

 

In its early stages, The Bachelors comes across not ineffectively as a study of bereavement and of the need to move on even if it does lack the extra depth and subtlety of the best of American independent cinema. We soon sense that the storyline will encompass two potential romances that could provide a form of healing: one between Wes and Lacy, rather conventionally handled, and the other involving Bill and Carine which develops despite Bill being much the older. If that sounds somewhat too neat and fictional, reservations are kept at bay by the conviction that J. K. Simmons brings to what is the central role and by his efforts being matched by Julie Delpy's admirably judged performance. Furthermore, Voelker is prepared to confront aspects of the situation that he might have avoided: Bill Palet's extensive grief turns into a severe depression, but even before that happens his therapist (Harold Perrineau) sees in him a sense of guilt for having survived his wife which has resulted in a wish to punish himself by not moving on despite his claims to the contrary. The film shows us too how, by allowing this feeling to take over, Bill is letting down his son just when he needs his father's support.

 

There is enough here to hold out the hope that this film will work as a drama of some insight, but by the later stages of the story it becomes all too clear that Voelker ultimately wants to reach a climax that offers facile uplift. Wes may be driven to confront his father, but once he does so the effect is magical. Indeed every plot thread move towards a happy ending during which time Wes in intercut footage even takes part in a cross-country run and emerges as the winner. Add that the film ends with the cast tucking into ice creams while a song plays on the soundtrack and it is evident that the feel-good aspect has won out. The fact remains that audiences who like films that function on this cosy level may lap it all up, right down to the father/son reconciliation beloved of American viewers. So for some the film will work, whereas for others the quality contributions by Simmons and Delpy will have been sacrificed in the quest for ultimate escapist appeal.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: J.K. Simmons, Josh Wiggins, Odeya Rush, Kevin Dunn, Julie Delpy, Harold Perrineau, Kimberley Crandall, Tyrel Jackson Williams, Jae Head, Kitana Turnbull, Charlie Depew, Jean Louisa Kelly.

 

Dir Kurt Voelker, Pro Matthew Baer, Joseph McKelheer, Bill Kiely and George Parra, Screenplay Kurt Voelker, Ph Antonio Riestra, Pro Des Richard Sherman, Ed Anita Brandt Burgoyne, Music Joel P. West, Costumes Camille Benda.

 

Peregrine Entertainment Capital/Windowseat Entertainment/Matt Baer Films-Bulldog Film Distribution.
100 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 30 March 2018. Cert. 15.