Irish Friends Go Stag in ‘The Bachelor Weekend’

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CHICAGO – What truths are contained in the male ritual of the bachelor party? Alcohol/substance consumption sure, maybe discomfort at being yourself, or perhaps a bit of accidental emotion? All is realized in the Irish comedy “The Bachelor Weekend,” brought to life by six members of the pre-wedding team, off on a stag weekend.

Fresh off its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival last month, the film is co-written by director John Butler and one of the lead actors, Peter McDonald, and adopts a theme of “what has happened to men?” Practically forced to go on a camping trip by the bride, the six buddies eschew their ritualistic smartphone lives and rough it as fellow travelers, anchored by the loose cannon in the group, The Machine. This works as a bit of an Irish “Big Chill,” with similar emotional bonds and dramatic transitions occurring over one event-filled weekend. There are recognizable personalities in the stag party group, and enough emotional ties to warm up the proceedings.

Fionnan (Hugh O’Conor) seems to be a bit too detailed in regard to his wedding plans with Ruth (Amy Huberman), and the bride desperately begs the best man Davin (Andrew Scott) to take the metrosexual man on a rugged camping trip as a bachelor weekend. Davin gathers mutual friends Simon (Brian Gleeson) and the two Kevins (Michael Legge and Andrew Bennett). Little Kevin is Fionnan’s brother, Big Kevin (“I’m not that big”) is the first Kevin’s lover.

Andrew Scott, Peter McDonald
Davin (Andrew Scott) and The Machine (Peter McDonald) Illustrate the Hijinks in ‘The Bachelor Weekend’
Photo credit: Tribeca Film

A wrench is thrown into the plans when Ruth insists that the gang include her brother (Peter McDonald), nicknamed “The Machine.” His reputation as a blunt, hard-partying guy goes against the sensibilities of the rest of the group, and Davin does his best to put him off. It takes a phone call from Ruth to tip off The Machine as to where the bachelor trip will be starting from, and the stag weekend is on with now six hiking companions.

This does come off a bit forced at times, but overall it really is about freeing up the inner beast in each of the men, and allowing them some freedom from the real world. In this context, some truths are told, but why wouldn’t they be when a bit of “molly” is passed around (the drug, not the girl). The Machine character is a hoot, every decent male bonding group has this type, the guy who can’t help but keep everything going and be indulgently exciting.

The set-up is pretty solid. There is a great bit of comedy in the deep willingness of Fionnan to plan every detail of the wedding, including a diorama of the reception hall. He’s not up for a camping trip, but neither are any of the others, demonstrated in their obsessive shopping spree for camping gear. When The Machine joins in, he has nothing but a thin coat and inappropriate shoes, but of course becomes the leader on the aimless destination.

The story is solidly funny, and sentimental in the Irish way, which means that all the friends eventually practice unconditional love – despite their conflicts – and everybody has a good cry over a round of singing. This is not to perpetuate stereotypes, but it felt warm in that Irish way, or at least within the context of what is spoken of during St. Patrick’s Day, when everyone’s filter is shut off.

The Bachelor Weekend
The Boys Get Into Trouble in ‘The Bachelor Weekend’
Photo credit: Tribeca Film

The film also makes the case for “what happened to men?” The industrialized, post-technology world has taken all the toughness out of the male animal, and that is contrasted nicely on the camping trip. If The Machine teaches us anything, it’s not always about the income comparisons or problems with the phone plan, it’s about having a willingness to be reckless and lost for a time in the woods. You can’t have life without living, in that sense.

One instance in the story also brought to mind a cardinal rule in the movies – you can’t have an argument about a particular singer or band at one point, and not expect that band or singer to pop up later. There is a wedding reception to go to, after all.

“The Bachelor Weekend” continued its limited release in Chicago on May 2nd. See local listings for theaters and show times. Featuring Peter McDonald, Hugh O’Conor, Andrew Scott, Brian Gleason, Michael Legge, Andrew Bennett and Amy Huberman. Written by John Butler and Peter McDonald. Directed by John Butler. Not rated.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Senior Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2014 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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