After the sudden death of his wife, grief-stricken husband Bill Palet (JK Simmons) decides to relocate with his teenage son, Wes (Josh Wiggins), in an attempt to make a fresh start. However, as the pair begin to spark new relationships, they can’t seem to break free from the past. On face value, writer and director Kurt Voelker’s The Bachelors appears to be like any other quirky coming-of-age tale, but after closer inspection its charms deteriorate to reveal a shallow attempt at an emotional journey.
As always, Simmons gives a welcome performance, and is by far the best aspect about this film. His mostly subdued portrayal of someone suffering from depression is nuanced, which only makes the moments he erupts with powerful emotion that more impactful. It’s disappointing, then, that he isn’t given much to work with, or that the movie doesn’t spend nearly enough time as it should exploring and unpicking his character to say anything meaningful about depression and mental illness – a serious problem applicable to other characters too.
Instead, we have interconnected plots focusing on the budding relationships between Bill and warm-hearted co-worker Carine (Julie Delpy), and Wes and brooding classmate Lacy (Odeya Rush). While it’s clear The Bachelors is trying to set up parallels between father and son, this falls flat due to horrendous chemistry between each amorous couple. Watching these characters interact without any sort of interest shown is incredibly awkward, something more evident during the “romantic” sequences between the two teenagers. Likewise, this lack of chemistry is present between Bill and Wes, whose relationship is arguably the central crux of the movie. As much as both actors try, there just isn’t any reason to care about their bond other than the film telling us to. Consequently, all emotional pay-off is absent by the time the third act twist arrives.
Part of the reason for this is that the dialogue is far too on-the-nose when it comes to discussing themes of mental illness. Rather than exploring these characters organically, Voelker spoon-feeds us everything we should be feeling through convenient lines of conversation, which makes for a dry viewing experience.
While it may fool viewers into thinking it’s a heart-felt coming-of-age story, The Bachelors is in fact an unfunny and frankly shallow attempt at exploring themes of mental illness, with nothing meaningful to say on the subject it thinks its saying so much about.
The Bachelors is released in select cinemas on 30th March 2018.
Watch the trailer for The Bachelors here: