Reviews

Swingers

5

“Hi, this is Nikki. Leave a message...”

There’s a wonderful, painful, truthful scene in Swingers where lovelorn jobbing actor Mike (Jon Favreau) gets home and immediately calls a vivacious girl he’s just met in a bar.

“Hi, this is Nikki. Leave a message...”

Earlier, he’s been advised by savvier buddies to hold off for the “industry standard” two days.

“Hi, this is Nikki. Leave a message...”

But he calls, anyway – at around two in the morning – and her answerphone keeps cutting him off mid-ramble, so he keeps re-calling and re-recording... and then she picks up.

“Mike? Never call me again, okay?”

Thrashing around at the bottom of the LA food-chain, Mike and co are the kind of guys who get turned down for gigs wearing Goofy suits (“They went with someone with more theme-park experience”). They take comfort by keeping up defiant appearances, ditching the conventional clubbing scene for the secondhand nostalgia of ‘neo-lounge’ bars with their Ratpack swagger and old-school swing music.

Mike’s painful journey from post-rejection wallowing to social rebirth is guided by the maddening, magnetic Trent (Vince Vaughn) and his happy-snappy vernacular (“You are so money and you don’t even know it!”). Their louche but likeable crew glide from dive to dive like predatory peacocks, acting up a systematic, seek-and-destroy pantomime of seduction. Mike bores, semi-scores and tries – too hard – to do the right thing. Until, as ever, just when he least expects it, he’s zapped by a gleaming moment of clarity in the form of an endearingly ditzy Heather Graham.

Swingers feels like the best night out you never had. Shot in 22 days for a paltry $250,000, the film’s swashbuckling improv – director Doug Liman simply blagged a cheap camera and soaked up everything, guerilla style – lends it an intimate, visceral vibe.

Dated movie homages and the odd structural niggle aside, Swingers is flash, funny and pretty much perfect. As martial-arts movies transmit their infectious glow of cartoonish toughness, Swingers just makes you want to hit the town. Although we advise male readers to exercise caution before referring to your manor’s womenfolk as “beautiful babies”.

Film Details