Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tribeca ’14: The Bachelor Weekend

Ever noticed how those crunchy granola camper types are lousy in a crisis, especially in the great outdoors? If you ever have an emergency in the forest look for the city guy. Oh, but “The Machine” is something else entirely. Outdoorsmen and urban sophisticates alike will shrink before his chaotic power in John Butler’s The Bachelor Weekend (a.k.a. The Stag, trailer here), which screens during the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.

Fionnan is sort of a Groomzilla. Finding him bizarrely interested in their wedding details, Ruth the bride-to-be presumes on best man Davin to take him on a stag camping getaway. Although Davin knows his chum is hardly the outdoorsy sort, he complies anyway. After all, as everyone but Fionnan knows, he also once went out with Ruth and never really recovered when she dumped him.

However, both men utterly dread her borderline psychotic brother, known simply as “The Machine.” They try to make it look like they have invited the hard-charging U2 fanatic, while holding back key info, like where and when. Nonetheless, The Machine still manages to find his way to the party, arriving in a wickedly foul mood. Let the celebration begin.

Weekend is not exactly a staggeringly original concept, but it is considerably gentler and less raunchy than The Hang-Over franchise and its copycats. Even The Machine turns out to be a reasonably grounded character. In fact, Butler and co-writer Peter McDonald (who also co-stars as the prospective brother-in-law from Hell) pull a bit of jujitsu, shifting viewer sympathies from the uptight Fionnan to the madly roguish The Machine.

Frankly, the biggest question Weekend answers pertains to Andrew Scott’s viability as a comedic leading man. Best known as Jim Moriarty in PBS’s Sherlock (and one of the memorable voices calling in during Locke), Scott fares rather well as Davin. He brings a sad dignity to the film that holds up quite nicely over time. McDonald brings the heat as The Machine, but also throws an effective curve ball or two in the late innings. In contrast, Hugh O’Conor is annoyingly nondescript as Fionnan.

From time to time, Weekend offers some humorous commentary Irish cultural identity amid the bromance. It is good-hearted and reasonably amusing, but not earthshakingly memorable. A pleasant diversion, The Bachelor Weekend screens this coming Tuesday (4/22), Wednesday (4/23), Thursday (4/24), and Sunday (4/27) during this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.