REVIEW: “The Bachelors”


Kurt Voelker’s “The Bachelors” opens with a father walking into his son’s bedroom in the middle of the night. He sits on the edge of the bed and says to his groggy son “I can’t stay here anymore.” Even without context this simple line of dialogue packs the emotional heft that is threaded throughout this entire film.

“The Bachelors” is a movie about grief which is nothing spectacular or especially new. But Voelker (who both wrote and directed the picture) does something many of these explorations miss. He never loses sight of the human element or the importance of conveying truth in every relationship. Whether he’s juggling drama or comedy, his characters and their emotions always feel genuine.


The father is Bill (J.K. Simmons) who recently lost his wife to cancer after 33 years of marriage. It’s an extraordinary performance by Simmons who maintains a steady heartbreaking tenderness. It’s not nearly as flamboyant or showy as his Oscar-winning performance in “Whiplash” but just as impressive in a much more measured way.

Bill packs up and moves with his son Wes (Josh Wiggins) to southern California where he hopes a change of scenery will do him good. Wes is equally sympathetic as a teenager who not only loses his mother but also his father to a worsening state of depression. On top of that he’s forced to move to a new town and a new school with new friends. There is an almost natural shyness to Wiggins that comes through in his acting. We saw in “Walking Out” from earlier this year and now here. His understated approach is serves his character which make later scenes when his emotions boil over more effective.

The coming-of-age side of Voelker’s two-headed story has its moments. Many of them are between Wes and a beautiful but troubled wild-child named Lacy. She’s portrayed by Odeya Rush who played a similar role in Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird”. The two are designated homework partners which allows their unconventional relationship to take form. Wes’ time with his two new outsider friends is a little more hit-or-miss. Some of their banter is funny but other times seems too contrived for the moment.


The other side of Voelker’s story consistently surprised me especially in how deep it was willing to dive into the area of depression. I wasn’t expecting it. There are no soft perspectives or dulled edges. Simmons doesn’t ‘go big’ to add a dominating dramatic effect to the issue. His performance is mannered yet emotionally rich and always believable. There are some wonderful and revealing scenes between Simmons and Harold Perrineau who plays his therapist. And also with Julie Delpy who plays a math teacher who takes an interest in Bill.

The film’s ending could be misconstrued as too tidy, but I was never left with that impression. I think the struggles still ahead of this father and son are implied but Voelker offers us hope. And we want that for these characters. We want it to work out. We want them to heal. We want all of this because Voelker does such a good job making us care for them. That sympathetic and emotional connection he creates is more than enough to carry us through this delightful yet poignant story.




movie_theatre - Phenom 5

Well this is the week where millions and millions of dollars will be spent on fresh roses, boxes of rich chocolates, sparkling diamond jewelry, and expensive fancy dinners all in the name of undying love. Ok, let me reword that. This Thursday is Valentines Day – a day where we guys had better have our wives or girlfriends something nice or the following few weeks will not be very pleasant! In the spirit of this wallet-crushing holiday I thought it would be good to focus this week’s Phenomenal 5 on love. So today I’m listing 5 Phenomenal Movie Romances. These are classic onscreen romances that are equally memorable and romantic. Now with so many big screen romances gracing cinema for all these years I would be a real goof to call this the definitive list. But I have no problems calling these five movie romances absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – Jack and Rose (“Titanic”)


While the first half of James Cameron’s epic sized blockbuster “Titanic” wasn’t nearly as good as the second half, it did set in motion a romance that gave the tearjerker finale some huge emotional pop. Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a poor drifter and Rose (Kate Winslet) is a member of the high society upper class. The two cross paths on the maiden voyage of the British luxury liner Titanic. Obviously they come from opposite ends of the social order but you know the old saying – “opposites attract” yadda yadda yadda. A deep and forbidden love develops between them and Rose’s family are none too happy about it. But all of that takes a back seat when the Titanic strikes an iceberg and begins to sink. At no time does their love shine brighter than in their struggle to survive and you can’t help but be moved by it.

#4 – Jesse and Celine (“Before Sunrise” & “Before Sunset”)


No list like this would be complete without including Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy). These two young lovers first met on a train from Budapest to Vienna in “Before Sunrise”. Jesse convinces Celine to skip her connecting train to Paris and spend the night walking around Vienna with him. A romantic spark is lit and the two seem like true soul mates but at the end of the film they head their separate ways. They cross paths 10 years later in Paris in “Before Sunset” and their lives have taken on many new changes. But as they spend the day walking and talking we quickly learn that spark never went out. It’s such a wonderful but complicated romance and we’ll get to see them 10 years later in this year’s “Before Midnight”. I can’t wait.

#3 – Nathaniel and Cora (“The Last of the Mohicans”)


Underneath the surface of frontier violence and costly war lies an incredible romance that plays a big part in “The Last of the Mohicans”. Cora (Madelenie Stowe) is an English woman who has arrived in the States during The French and Indian War. She’s rescued by Nathaniel (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his adopted father and brother after a Huron war party tries to kill her. Through Nathaniel she learns a different perspective of the war and how it effects the locals. Even more important to the story, the two develop a love for one another that carries them through blood, battlefields, and tragedy. The way this love story is told through this dangerous and violent environment is beautiful and “The Last of the Mohicans” remains one of my all time favorite films.

#2 – Scarlett and Rhett (“Gone with the Wind”)


There may not be a more difficult and sometimes volatile relationship in film than the one shared between Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable). Their fascinating romance takes place during the outbreak of the Civil War. Scarlett is a fiery but spoiled daughter of a plantation owner and Rhett is just the one to tame her…or is he? Rhett is a confident and brash fellow who makes a play for Scarlett. But he’s not her puppet which often times infuriates her. But through their on again/off again relationship there is evidence of a truly passionate love between them. These two take us on a roller coaster ride that’s anything but a soft and tender love story. But it’s without a doubt one of the most mesmerizing romances to ever grace the movies.

#1 – Rick and Ilsa (“Casablanca”)


My favorite movie of all time also happens to feature what I think is the greatest romance in movie history. Humphrey Bogart plays Rick, a club owner in Casablanca during World War 2. His world is turned upside down when Ilsa (played by the stunningly beautiful Ingrid Bergman) reenters his life. We learn the two fell madly in love after first meeting in Paris but circumstances tore them apart. From the first moment their eyes meet again, we know that neither’s feelings have changed. But there are several obstacles keeping them from being together and watching what seems to be an ill-fated romance is simply great cinema. Bogart and Bergman have incredible chemistry and you never doubt their character’s love for each other. This is the quintessential romance in what’s a truly flawless movie.

So those are my five phenomenal movie romances. Now I want to hear your thoughts. What did I miss or where did I go wrong. Take time to comment and share you favorite movie romance.


It’s gotten to where it is really difficult to find a good romantic drama or a good romantic comedy out of the host of mediocre to bad films that Hollywood churns out these days. So many of these movies employ the same stale formulas and the same conventional approach to storytelling. Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” is an intelligent and fresh romantic drama that is anything but conventional. Linklater wrote and directed this story of two strangers who meet, take a chance, and truly connect.

“Before Sunrise” is built around an extremely minimal plot. Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) meet while on a train from Budapest to Vienna. Jesse is an American heading to Vienna where he is to catch a plane to the United States. Celine is a student at the Sorbonne in Paris and is returning after a trip to visit her grandmother. The two enjoy a conversation and they both sense a connection between them. The train arrives at Vienna in the early evening and Jesse’s flight doesn’t leave until the next morning. So he convinces Celine to skip her connecting train to Paris the spend the night with him walking through the streets of Vienna.

The rest of the movie follows them as they simply walk and talk. As they stroll through some of the city’s streets, cemeteries, and parks, they share more and more about each other – their beliefs, their pasts, their outlooks, their fears – and we the audience learn who they both are with each passing conversation. Even more, we watch as a spark of attraction turns into romance as the night continues. What’s even more interesting is watching the two pour their hearts out to each other as their time together begins to run out. There is an awareness between them that once she boards the train and he heads to the airport they may never see each other again. Linklater translates that reality to the audience very well and it’s a lot of what drives the second half of the film.

Both Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphy give great performances in a film requiring a lot of dialogue, some delivered through very long takes. The script almost feels as though it were written with them in mind, particularly Hawke, when actually Linklater had a hard time finding the perfect actors for the part. Hawke and Delphy work off of each other wonderfully and it’s their natural genuineness mixed with a perfect handling of the characters that sells both them and their romance. While Linklater brought aboard Kim Krizan to add a solid female influence into the story, it’s also said that both Hawke and Delphy contributed to the script. I think that’s another key reason that they work so well with the material.

Now there’s no denying that “Before Sunrise” is very talky and on the surface there isn’t a lot that happens. And even though I loved the glimpse into Vienna’s culture, Linklater – while certainly using it to a degree – doesn’t make the city and the culture a key player in the film in the same way as say Woody Allen did with Paris. It’s truly a movie about two strangers connecting and talking. Now as I mentioned, there is a meatier subtext and a more grounded and authentic look at spontaneity, personal reflection, and romance. But I can see where Linklater could have used the Vienna setting more to the movie’s advantage.

Overall, “Before Sunrise” is honest and straight-forward. There are no false moments or pretenses from the film, the characters, or the story and that’s one of the things that makes it work so incredibly well. You believe in the characters and you believe in their romance even though it’s based on one small spontaneous act. Watching these characters unfold was a delight and the ending didn’t undo what the rest of the movie accomplished. “Before Sunrise” may not be for everyone, but it’s a truly romantic yet in some ways sad look at two individuals who aren’t nearly as assured as they let on to be.