After the death of his wife, Bill Palet (J.K. Simmons) and his son Wes (Josh Wiggins) move across the country to find a new life and escape the memories of their old one.
Bill is a math teacher with quite the essence of an everyman but his grief for his lost partner is felt in every fiber of his being. Wes deals with the loss in his own way, exacerbated by the experience of moving into a new school with new friends, enemies, and authority figures to navigate.
The Bachelors fits nicely into a classic Heartland Film Festival niche: an indie, starring one of this generation’s best actors, that is heartfelt, humorous and uplifting.
Simmons is a force of nature. According to writer / director Kurt Voelker, Simmons signed onto The Bachelors a few years back before Whiplash made him a household name. Palet is a role worthy of his talents, exhibiting all the ups-and-downs of grieving for a lost loved one. He stumbles through his relationship to Wes, his role at work and a budding friendship with fellow instructor Carine Roussel (Julie Delpy). Roussel, of course, proves key to Palet’s healing process as a possible love interest.
Wes also meets someone to pine for in Lacy Westman (Odeya Rush). Struggling with his grieving father is only an added challenge.
The best moments of The Bachelors are when Simmons and Wiggins share the screen. Their chemistry as father and son is stronger than with their respective love interests (who don’t give bad performances, but whose roles feel a little undercooked). The tit-for-tat, “son teaches father as much as father teaches son” is well-worn ground but aptly supports the story. They break and build, break and build, break and build each other until they’re in a different headspace.
To the script’s credit, neither father nor son ends the film having fully healed. Voelker respects grief as something that flows between states of “better” and “not.” Simmons has the chops to really pull off both and the swinging between. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime actor, and while this isn’t one of his most memorable roles he still brings his all to it.
The Bachelors doesn’t bring anything especially new to the table, but it’s a well-produced entry into its genre, with great performances and real heart.
The Bachelors is a Narrative Feature at the 2017 Heartland Film Festival and will be presented at:
- 1:15 PM, Fri Oct 20 at AMC Castleton Square 14
- 5:15 PM, Sat Oct 21 at AMC Traders Point Theater 12
Tickets are available at http://heartlandfilm.org/festival/tickets/, by calling 1-866-HFF-1010 or at the box office at the time of the screening.