Saturday movie review: The Bachelors

Coming-of-age films — one of my favorite movie genres — relate a character's transition from childhood to adulthood. Many times, the death of a loved one precipitates the maturing of the young guy or gal featured in the film.

I'd like to propose another category of film: coming-to-terms films. Like coming-age-films, the story line of coming-to-terms tales feature a person dealing with the death of a loved one. Difference being, though, that the character is so far beyond childhood or adolescence coming-of-age doesn't accurately describe the emotional transformation of the guy or gal.

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For the purposes of reviewing the dramedy THE BACHELORS, let's just say coming-to-terms films is indeed a recognized film category. Because that's what THE BACHELORS is: a coming-to-terms film. But it's also a coming-of-age film. On both counts, it's a lovely look at a father and a son doing their best to heal and move on after the death of a loved one, the wife of the father, the mother to the son.

THE BACHELORS stars J.K. Simmons as Bill, a widow mourning the death of the love of his life, to whom he was married thirty-three joy-filled years. Josh Wiggins plays Wes, Bill's son equally affected by the loss of his devoted mother.

In hopes of moving on after the devastating loss, Bill packs up his son and moves across the country, accepting a teaching position at a private boys school, where Wes will attend. When two headstrong women enter their lives — Julie Delpy as Carine, a French teacher at the school, and Odeya Rush as Lacy, a troubled teen Wes soon crushes on — Bill and Wes begin the painful process of healing. Or, at the very least, see glimpses of hope for healing, as fits and starts, depression and frustration threaten to thwart their efforts and best intentions.

Simmons and Wiggins give depth and realism to the father-son relationship, their shared loss an inescapable link, yet their individual ways of trying to move on a source of conflict. Scenes featuring the two together are some of the sweetest of the story at times, the most sad at others. Wes desperately wants his dad to overcome the depression he can't seem to shake and simply be Dad again. Yet Bill can't see his son's desperation through the dark cloud ruining his life.

Simmons is surprisingly good at grieving. Sometimes I just wanted to smack him, MOONSTRUCK style, and shout snap out of it! Which is what Delpy's Carine seems on the verge of doing a time or two. She has feelings for Bill — and she knows he has feelings for her in return. But is that enough to conquer Bill's memories of the Best.Wife.Ever?

As adept as Rush is as troubled Lacy, it made me worry her real life may have similar sadness and such. Josh Wiggins' Wes deftly complements Lacy's stubborn snarkiness with patience and persistence.

Though each character struggles with complicated issues and painful relationships — Bill's resistance to extreme measures that might assuage his depression being the most challenging — THE BACHELORS avoids being dark, depressing, difficult to watch. There's definitely heartbreak on display, but there's also an equal amount of hope.

Achieving an enjoyable, life-affirming film that successfully balances heartbreak and hope — and includes subtle comic relief and quirky characters — can be largely attributed to writer/director Kurt Voelker. Producers Matthew Baer (of UNBROKEN fame) and George Parra (SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, THE DESCENDANTS and more) each contributed their own distinctive flair to the film's essence, as well.

 Josh Wiggins as Wes and J.K. Simmons as Bill in THE BACHELORS.

Josh Wiggins as Wes and J.K. Simmons as Bill in THE BACHELORS.

THE BACHELORS (not rated, for some reason ... but there's no nudity and no violence other than a school cafeteria brawl between boys) opened in theaters across the country yesterday, October 20, 2017. 

Disclosure: I screened this film free for review; opinions are my own.