Writer/director Kurt Voelker instead focuses on the grieving process, which is cast as an inevitability to be accepted rather than an obstacle to evaded. The characters’ visceral reactions to this sentiment are simply compelling, and I imagine any viewer who has suffered a loss will be moved by the honesty and relatability on display throughout.
Although Simmons is the biggest name among the cast, each of the four top-billed actors deserve credit for THE BACHELORS’ deft emotional balance. For instance, Voelker’s script thankfully resists casting Carine (Julie Delpy) and Lacy (Odeya Rush) as one-dimensional love interests for Bill and Wes respectively, gradually revealing more of each woman’s personality so that their budding friendship feels genuine. Delpy is particularly riveting in their scenes together; her fierce monologue during an intimate dinner party is easy to forget among the light-hearted banter but renders the parallels between her younger self and Lacy unambiguous. In fact, despite both characters being introduced by way of the Palets’ story, it seemed to me that Carine had the most profound impact on Lacy by the film’s end. Each pairing of the leads certainly offers its own engaging dynamic (Higgins and Rush are awkward high-schoolers; Simmons and Delpy are thoughtful colleagues), yet the hope that Carine and Lacy’s connection instils is a welcome moment of levity from THE BACHELORS’ more serious moments.
Voelker’s script also impresses with how evenly its attention is divided between the characters overall, even though Bill stood out to me as the most fascinating. After all, his desperation to regain a feeling of control over his life is crucial to THE BACHELORS’ central examination of grief, and Simmons’ ability to convey inner and outer anguish simultaneously becomes the film’s secret weapon. Voelker smartly shifts Bill’s attempts at treatment into the forefront during the third act, and, in a stunning sequence I won’t spoil, relishes the opportunity to draw out the emotional tension as Simmons simply empties a garage.
Unfortunately, even the cast are unable to prevent THE BACHELORS from feeling aimless at times, with the events of the first and second acts frequently lacking any more than a loose connection. The characters and themes are interesting but become forgettable without an underlying plot, which once again leads scenes depicting Bill in therapy to shine by comparison. Meanwhile, Voelker also appears to have a problem with wanting subtext to be obvious; for instance, I mentioned above that the film suggests pain needs to be acknowledged before it can be overcome, and that Lacy clearly reminds Carine of her younger self. These interpretations are explicitly confirmed almost verbatim by characters during the film, removing any nuance and immediately disengaging me from the scene.
THE BACHELORS can feel slow at times, with its character-driven focus often leading to the sacrifice of narrative propulsion. Yet ultimately, this film provides even more proof of why J.K. Simmons and Julie Delpy have been on cinema buffs’ radars for so long, and I recommend it to anyone open to a quiet, thoughtful drama.