Monday, December 17, 2012
MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Swingers
While searching through Netflix, I stumbled upon a real gem of a film - "Swingers". This film dismissed all of my expectations, telling a surprisingly charming story. The plot follows a group of struggling actors as they navigate the Los Angeles nightlife, hoping to have an epic night. When I read the plot synopsis, I fully expected a wild, raunchy comedy in the vein of films like "The Hangover". I was completely fooled though, as this is a delicate film about love and friendship. It's all about the satisfaction of going out with your bros, even if the party sucks or you don't "get lucky". This film ditches all our modern cliches about "guy movies" as it is almost feminine in its construct. The narrative focuses on Mike (played by Jon Favreau), who is dealing with a tough breakup and is unable to move on. Even though 6 months have passed, he still can't make the plunge back into the usual dating world. As he bar-hops with his friends, their attempts to hook him up end in failure as he still clings on to his lost love. This is the kind of romantic sentimentality that you only see in chick flicks, no?
The other key character is Trent (played by Vince Vaughn), who plays your typical stud whose main objective is to score. Although his attitude fits into the expected character tropes, the script doesn't exaggerate his behaviour. There are no wild threesomes or unrealistic hookups with supermodels. In fact, there isn't much sex or nudity at all. If you look at the film's MPAA rating, it only recieved the "R" rating for explicit languange. To me, it could have easily been rated PG-13 (or maybe even PG). Even without any strong sexual content or nudity though, it displays a maturity that is more than equal to what we now expect from an R-rated comedy. At the heart of it, this film is simply a celebration of what is now known as "bromance". As I watched the film I was reminded of the Greek term "Philos", which I learned in one of my college classes while reading Homer's Iliad. As opposed to the passionate erotic love "Eros", "Philos" refers to a deep brotherly bond that is equally as powerful. In "Swingers", this was beautifully explored in this great screenplay. For instance, in the midst of a random hookup in Las Vegas, Trent pauses to check up on his buddy Mike to make sure he is having a good time with his own lady friend. In another scene, 2 members of the gang are seated with a hot chick, but they mostly ignore her when they notice that Mike has met someone and may possibly find love again. It's a perfect example of that phrase "bros before hoes"! There are some other subtle things too, mostly in the way the men embrace each other and communicate out of genuine concern. As I said before, there seems to be a "feminine" touch to the film, as it portrays a form of interaction that society has told us to expect only from women and gay men. Some people may find this trivial (there are certainly many guys who are very close to their best friends), but it seems quite bold when you see it in a film. I can't imagine a buddy film being made like this in today's world. Nowadays, "bromance" is decidedly goofy in nature, rather than the supportive, loving relationships found in this film.
Now that I've made the film sound sappy and treacly, it would be remiss of me to forget that this is indeed a comedy. As I mentioned earlier though, the tone of the film is quite subtle. Therefore, the humour is less about on-the-nose hilarity and more about the unexpected amusements that arise when you go out with your friends. It fits in well with the overall tone of the film, exploring true friendship through clarity and honesty. The fact that Favreau himself wrote the screenplay and cast his real-life friends makes it all the more personal and affecting. Along with Vaughn, they give winning performances that elevate the words on the page. Their realistic interpretations of "the promiscuous stud" and "the hopeless romantic" were a welcome change from the usual stereotypes. This is a fine film that will remind you of the value of your true friends. They are supportive and accommodating when you are wallowing in self-pity, but they are also able to give you a firm reality check when needed. I assume most people have seen this film before, but if you haven't, I highly recommend it.