Bachelor, The (1999) *
Directed by Gary Sinyor. Written by Steve Cohen. Photography, Simon Archer. Editing, Robert Reitano. Production design, Craig Stearns. Music by David A. Hughes & John Murphy.Produced by Lloyd Segan & Bing Howenstein. Cast: Chris O'Donnell (Jimmy), Renee Zellweger (Anne), Artie Lange (Marco), Edward Asner (Gluckman), Hal Holbrook (O'Dell), James Cromwell (Priest), Mariah Carey (Ilana), Brooke Shields (Buckley), Peter Ustinov (Grandad), et al. A New Line Cinema release. 101 minutes. PG-13
In 1925, Buster Keaton directed and starred in the silent classic "Seven Chances," which was itself based on an eponymous play. It was, and still is, a riot.
"The Bachelor" is a remake-update of Keaton's comedy/farce. The director, is the Brit Gary Sinyor, whose feature debut was the amusing, Jewish-themed comedy "Leon the Pig Farmer" (1992), a work modestly distributed, hence seen in specialized venues such as festivals. Sinyor made two more films which, to my knowledge, have been seen by even smaller audiences. "The Bachelor," if there's any justice, ought to meet with the same non-reception. But one cannot count on that.
When I watched the film with a small audience, a viewer near me kept laughing aloud, and commenting. I was doubly irritated, by my fellow-viewer and by the film. Since I did not want my annoyance to influence my judgment, I moved discreetly to a quiet part of the theater. The move did not improve the movie.
"The Bachelor" opens with much footage of wild mustangs to hammer the point that this is just what bachelor men are. Ugh. Then, Jimmy (a pallid, personality-less O'Donnell) is singled out as another younger man playing the field. He is, however, lucky enough to enter into a three-year relationship with Anne (Zellweger), who is a perfect companion and (supposedly), is not pushing for marriage. However, for reasons unclear, Jimmy feels compelled to pop the question. He does this at a fancy restaurant where, apparently, fellow-bachelors traditionally take their girl-friends to offer them wedding bliss. (Are there such places?)
Jimmy ruins everything with his hesitations and bumbling, especially by telling Anne "You win" and explaining that the time had come for him "to s... or get off the pot." Some courtship! Incensed, the girl walks out on him. His later efforts at making up for his idiocy are spurned.
Then grandpa (Ustinov), the very wealthy owner of a pool-table factory, dies, leaving a will on video. Jimmy will inherit one hundred million dollars if he marries on his 30th birthday --which just happens to be a bit over 24 hours away. So Jimmy re-proposes to Anne, who says no. This sends him on a frantic searc for another instant bride. Riding a limousine with his best friend - the fat Marco- and a thin clergyman (James Cromwell), he locates, meets and proposes to (all this with impossible speed) several of his ex girl-friends. They are all shown as caricatures. They all refuse.
As a last resort, Marco places a big newspaper ad which results in an army of willing brides, all in wedding gowns, mobbing and besieging Jimmy.
You can see the happy ending coming ,from a thousand miles away. To wit, Anne's change of heart at the last minute, and the twosome's beating of the clock at the last second.
"The Bachelor" is a one-and-a half joke flick, dull, mechanically repetitious within its agitated search and its regular cuts to Anne and her sister -- the latter used as the female equivalent of "the straight man" in vaudeville routines. Although peppered by a few good bits and a nice soundtrack of mostly oldies, the film remains a loser throughout.
The time element is entirely incredible, far more so than "Around the World in Eighty Days." It is inconceivable that so much happens in so short a time. The characters are dull, except for Brooke Shields as a cold, calculating socialite and gold-digger. Edward Asner and Hal Holbrook are embarrassingly wasted. In his small part, the great, versatile Peter Ustinov is a bad imitation of an eccentric, authoritarian old geezer with a bad imitation of an American accent. James Cromwell, whose corrupt, sinister chief of police was so chill-making in "L.A. Confidential," is the clergyman, He goes, unbelievably, from a silent, dumb-looking character to a suddenly active one.
Worse than anything else is the "piece de resistance": the anonymous throng of hundreds (thousands?) of eager brides-to-be, all of them grasping harridans, all wearing ugly wedding-dresses, all vulgar and repulsive. Buster Keaton knew something when he kept his camera mostly at a distance which did not personalize those women. And the fact that his film was silent is a blessing.