The Bachelors (3 stars)

The Bachelors

JK Simmons and Julie Delpy are reason enough to see this laidback look at grief

With no connection to the Irish pop group of the same name, The Bachelors is writer-director Kurt Voelker's unassuming riff on the intense soul-searching of Manchester by the Sea. With careful observation of familial issues, this portrait of a father and son recovering from bereavement got lost in the 2018 awards season shuffle by being too worthy and composed for its own good.

The ever-reliable J.K. Simmons offers another variation on his signature father-figure role as Bill Palet, a stoic character who heads for Los Angeles and a new teaching job after his wife dies. Bill has teenage son Wes (Josh Wiggins) in tow, and Wes's head is turned by his attractive study partner Lacy (Odeya Rush), who preemptively rejects his advances before he can even make them. Bill improbably finds himself the object of the affections of fellow teacher Carine (Julie Delpy), and the men's bond is tested by their problematic relationships with the opposite sex.

Apart from his screenplay for the cartoon misfire Rock Dog, The Bachelors marks Voelker's first feature in ten years, and the gentle tone and characterisation suggest a mature craftsman at work. With beloved stars like Simmons and Delpy involved, there's a goodwill factor that pulls a rather lightweight narrative towards a simplistic conclusion. The relative ease with which Bill and Wes's problems are resolved unfortunately also serves to undermine any potential for a serious consideration of issues about depression and medication.

The Bachelors is the kind of undemanding fare that passes the time without leaving much of an impression. It's a sunny, laidback story of grief and healing that makes a few genial points before retreating into sentimental contrivance. Yet, while Voelker's film never reaches the heights of Whiplash or Richard Linklater's Before trilogy, there's just enough charm here to satisfy fans of their two personable stars.

Limited release from Fri 30 Mar.

The Bachelors

  • 3 stars
  • 2017
  • 1h 39min
  • Directed by: Kurt Voelker
  • Written by: Kurt Voelker
  • Cast: Odeya Rush, JK Simmons, Jean Louisa Kelly

Bill (Simmons) moves with his teenage son (Wiggins) to Los Angeles after his wife dies, and finds himself the object of the affection of fellow teacher Carine (Delpy). Unassuming and carefully observed portrait of familial issues, perhaps too worthy and undemanding for its own good.

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