Volume 1, Number 4 -- November, 1996

Swing High

(Small indy film Swingers hits a home run)

By Tony Han

In one corner, there's The Bridges of Madison County, Steel Magnolias, and Waiting to Exhale. In between, there's The Big Chill and Grand Canyon. Up until now, on this side, there were only movies like The Brother's Macmillan, or you had to go action film. Men were trapped between unrealistically-simplified, gushy sentimentality or un-relatably extreme brutality. However, God is good and granted us the reprieve: Swingers. Have you hear of this movie, yet? Well, if not, IT'S NOT ABOUT WIFE SWAPPING. Common, but understandable mistake. No, it's The single guy flick. (Feminist! Duck!) And... I love it. My associates attempted to deter me from reviewing this film for my column because... well, I've been known to hammer a movie or two (if so deemed and deserved). But, I have nothing but good things to think, feel, and say about this bad boy. It's money -- and it knows it.

The proper state to be in viewing this fine film: sober if you want to be Mike, buzzed if you want to be Double Down, and messed up if you want to be Sue. Just see the film! But, afterwards, trust me, you'll be pumped and make a bee-line for the nearest happen'n bar regardless -- looking for the honey babies. And the talk; for being from the Bay Area, it's comically LA. But, it'll stick to you all the same. And you can't help, you can't help but be talking about being Money. etc. etc. (See the damn movie for the rest of the talk.)

What is Swingers? Well, let me tell you what it meant to me and the boys: It's the bizarre, honest, painful truth about being a guy. It's about knowing what it means to not talk to the pitcher during a no-hitter, not letting anyone mess with your goalie, or leaving the kicker alone. Let me say this: There are four main characters in the movie; Mike The-Recently-Dumped-One, Trent T-and-Double-Down, Sue The Psycho, and Rob The-Hometown-Level-Headed-One. And, as believable as it is to think that these are distinct, different people of specific personas, for those who may understand, we've all been all of these characters. (It's kinda like in the Breakfast Club, when, at the end, Anthony Michael Hall writes in the essay that within each of them is each other). At any moment, we can be the SNAG whose been though Hell, Rico Suave whose has the right line, Psycho Boy who won't take feces, and flat out...the guy whose on top of what's going on. And, for me, that's what makes this movie beautiful. It's the honest testament to what a male can be...and is. It's like an extreme, schizophrenic version of John Cusack in Say Anything (well, actually, any John Cusack movie), who can be a guy or a man, whichever the situation called for. This movie would have been incomplete if anyone of these characters were missing. You can go out and hunt for baby, but if you find The One, then you can't be playing the game anymore or else something unfortunate may come of it. It's about dealing with sh*t, not putting up with sh*t, dishing sh*t, and getting sh*t dumped all over you.

The only MINOR problem (which was squashed under quick analysis) is the impossibility of the time-frame for Mike. But, this movie is trying to be film without trying to be Gone With the Wind or Lawrence of Arabia. A quick jabbing point was chosen in favor of realism. For the amount that it was able to convey in it's time, you accept that it is the condensation of the truth of things. It saw, it told, and then it got the heck out.

Aside from what this film meant to me and it's testament to the real wackiness of what being a guy in this day and age is like, it's a satire on Hollywood and Los Angeles, a homage to Tarantino and Scorcese, and "feel good movie". If a person had to condense the plot into something surface and understandable, it's about a bunch of wanna-be actors who play the club, bar, and party scene in LA. It's a riot. The dialogue, dress, and setting is hip and SoCal. It starts out blunt and wacky; Mike and Rob are talking about the nature of breaking up. It sounds funky, it's repercussions only understood at the end of the movie. It goes through the different ways one can score or crash-and-burn as a socialite. The setting and dialogue will forever lock the movie into LA of the mid-Nineties; the trends that are occurring, the speak, the threads. But the characters are timelessly about how to staying balanced. It's classic. If you're a guy, not just a Celestine Prophecy fanatic, not only the Boy who can't be dissed, not the eternal smooth mover, and not always Cool Hand Luke, but if you're all of these simultaneously, this movie will split your side.

"Cocktails first; questions later."

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