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Swingers is money, baby
posted by Paul on 2/23/01


Movies about Hollywood, and all the self-referential jibing which that genre implies, rarely do well. Indeed, it's near-on impossible to make a movie which provides an accurate assessment of the most superficial, morally bankrupt industry in the world. " Burn Hollywood Burn "'s performance is a bigger joke than the industry it was trying to parody; " Swimming With Sharks " had moments of truth, but wound up overblown and unrealistic; and " The Muse " was more of a back-slap to old Hollywood than a criticism of its bullshit politics. " The Player " was a perfect send-up of the blood-thirsty vipers populating the industry - it didn't pull its punches, and based on evidence, was more realistic than many would have us believe. Satire at its best.

But, for me, the best movie about Hollywood is " Swingers ". And that's a strange conclusion, because " Swingers " doesn't pertain to be about the industry. I think that's why it works, though. It's very rare that a movie like " Swingers " - about a group of self-centred acting wannabes - would hit its mark so well. But then, it's not your typical movie. Made on a shoestring budget of $25,000, it's a witty, authentic depiction of love, loss, dating and self-acceptance.

You're probably sitting there thinking " are we talking about the same movie? ". If you've seen the movie, it may seem shallow and obvious, but, unlike a lot of " message " movies, it doesn't advertise its themes with melancholy music or showy cinematography. The themes are just there, living and breathing amongst some of the most finely drawn comedy characters this side of Woody Allen's page.



" Swingers " centers on a group of friends, but the primary focus is Mikey...and Trent. These guys are the best of friends but polar opposites. The rest of the friends are on the fringes of Movie and TV work, and the group sit around:

talking about movies; playing cards ; debating dating rituals; playing computer games; getting into fights with street punks. I think that sums up their contributions in the movie, besides ridiculing Mikey for being such a drone.

Mike:

Monkey-headed Mike(y) is the typical artist. Walks like primitive man, acts like a nervous schoolboy and has major confidence problems. After splitting with his long-term girlfriend, he retreats into a shell of misery. His cooler friend, Trent, tries to shake the negativity, but it prove fruitless for a while. Mikey succeeds in looking like a moron in Las Vegas, where he loses money and face. He later has a conversation with an answering machine, which freaks the recipient so much, she's compelled to call him back ( after his *roughly* 10th monologue ) and tell him to sod off for good. But then, he does end up with Heather Graham later in the movie, so he's not all bad.

Personal strengths: Sensitive, caring and humorously self-deprecating.
Weaknesses: He's a comedian, except he lacks what most comics need - jokes.
Most likely to wear: A white vest.
Most likely to say: " I don't know, man. I respect women "
Hates: Answering Machines.

Trent

Trent is the guy we all aspire to be. He's super confident, he knows all the right moves and he can walk the walk. When you hit the clubs, you want to weave a Trent-like spell. Sometimes you do, usually you don't. Well, ok, you never do. Guys like Trent exist in very small numbers, and you won't find them in every club. They're merely pretenders. This guy isn't just slightly delusional, he is the very embodiment of self confidence.

TRENT
She smiled, baby.

MIKE
I can't believe what an asshole you are.

TRENT
Did she or did she not smile?

MIKE
She was smiling at what an asshole you are.

TRENT
She was smiling at how money I am, what I did with her.

Ok, let's compare Trent's approach with my own.

Trent enters the club with Mike. He's relaxed and enjoying a few beers. He spots two hot ladies and moves in.

Trent

Hey there. Me and my associate couldn't help notice you two beautiful babies. Nice dresses. Can I buy either of you a drink? Or maybe you're looking at me and thinking I'm too classy a guy to offer girls like you drink.

Girls...swoon.

I enter a club with a friend. I'm tense and desperate to score. I ramble on incessantly. I spot two hot ladies and ten drinks later, I stumble over and attempt a play.

Paul

Uh...uh.. Do you come here often?

Girls

No

Paul

Uh...ok.. Wanna drink?

Girls

No


That's me on a bad day, mind you, but let me assure you, I never quite hit the Trent mark of supreme confidence. Who does?



Themes

Love - When you say a movie deals with love, it's natural that your mind will conjure up images of Tom Hanks' sloppy lips, or Meg Ryan trying to prove she's just a " gal next door "- and NOT a bitchy prima-donna. This movie deals with love and loss more subtly, and certainly a lot more realistically. In reality, expressions of love don't involve running to the top of the Empire State Building or sealing a long awaited kiss for happily ever after ( following a comedy of romantic misunderstandings ). I may not be Rudolph Valentino here, but from my experiences, love is much more bittersweet than many movies would have you believe. " Swingers " encapsulates the reality.

1) Mikey is in love with his ex-girlfriend. Very much so. He can't shake the memories of her, and he tortures himself with thoughts of reconciliation. Jon Favreau, who wrote the script, embodies Mikey brilliantly. He's awkward looking and neurotic. Uncomfortable in his own skin. I think we've all been there.

2) Trent loves himself. He's this over-confident, good-looking guy. He has a charisma and presence which obliterates Mikey's self-conciousness. He's the Pacey to Mikey's Dawson, but girls love him for it, so the strutting arrogance is justified.

Loss

1) Mikey loses his girlfriend, his self-confidence and a lot of money in Las Vegas.

Self-acceptance

Trent, it can be said, accepts himself wholly. Mikey, on the other hand, can't seem to appreciate himself. Eventually, he grows to realize that he's a good guy who can make a good impression with a woman.

Dating

" Swingers " does for male flirting what " Girl, Interrupted " did for mental illness. In other words, it takes something which can be socially painful and makes it look like fun. The characters in " Swingers ", which is essentially a guy movie ( even though it can be enjoyed by females, amused by our foibles ), have a set of amusing rituals about dating. Anyone who goes clubbing or hits the bar scene regularly will have their own rules, and if you don't, you should ( keeps you somwhat right while the alcohol kills your brain cells ). Some people prefer the direct approach, others play hard to get. I've tried both, but I think I'm losing my touch in the clubs. I find it difficult to be suave and meaningful when I have to raise my voice to a shout, trying to make myself heard above " MY LOVE DON'T COST A THING ". The movies make it all look so simple. A couple of quick one-liners and meaningful looks and she turns into putty ( not literally, obviously. Although it does sound like a fun movie plot ). The dating rules in " Swingers " are strange but they seem to hold value. So here's a quick look at them:

- If you get her number, don't call for a few days.

Logic: Playing hard to get only makes her more interested. " Treat her mean, keep her keen " wins over a lot of girls.

Reality: I've tried this one, but it only makes me look even more like a jackass. Girls in my locale aren't calculating ladder climbers a la " Swingers ". They want a call the next day. I think it all depends on the person. Not all girls are the same, which is why I love it when they make the first move or initiate the call-up hassle.

- Work with your friends

Logic: Friends can help you get the girl. They're there to support you. Good friends will make you look more desireable, and you can play off of them. Sonny to your Cher.

Reality: Some friends can help, but others move in on your targets and don't have a clue how to make you look good. They say the wrong things at the wrong times and don't know how to look. That's my excuse, anyway. And I'm sticking to it.

- Listen to the girl

Logic: Girls don't want you to tell them everything about yourself. They want a sense of mystery, and silence can go a long way. Look interested in what they're saying. Don't assume that what you have to say is that important.

Reality: I might start practising this one. My personal problem is that I can't seem to shut up and I yabber on incessantly, probably boring the female population to death. It's important to note that this rule centers on flirting. When you get the girl, strong conversation is important, but it's unlikely you'll get her if you're too busy explaining the deeper meanings of dance music.

- Try to be genuine and give attention

Logic: Girls can see through facades better than anyone. Don't BS too much, or you'll look weak and desperate. And make sure to compliment her. Just don't be blatant about it.

Reality: If you're in Hollywood, tell them you work in movies. BSing works there, at least. Try to be somewhat genuine elsewhere. Compliments and a genuine personality can go far, if you close your mouth for a while.



Top 5 " Swingers " slang..

5) " Money " - In the context of " You're so money, and you don't even know it ". It means " cool " or " appealing ". It's a cool adjective to throw around, and surprisingly endearing. After all, money is traditionally green, wrinkly and handled by many. But here it's a huge compliment.

4) " Vibe " - In the context of " I think she's vibing you ". It means " checking out " or " weighing you up ", so if you get " vibed ", follow the aforementioned " rules ".

3) " Party " - " She looks like she wants to party ". Party = engage in sexual shenanighans, or have a wild time. Sadly, my parties consisted of birthday cakes and party hats. And now they just consist of things getting broken and finding puke all over the house.

2) " Wing man " - Friend who assists you in scoring with the prospective girl.

1) " Shaqed " - Getting spurned very blatantly. Even Trent gets " shaqed ".



" Swingers " proves that a good script, coupled with interesting characters and sharp direction, can overcome a low budget and limited promotion. It survives on word of mouth, and not the measly $25,000 of production money. $25,000. That wouldn't even pay for Travolta's jock strap. " Swingers " provides some genuine male-angst insights and quotable one-liners.

So, if you're looking for a breezy watch and would rather not endure sugary pap like " Save the Last Dance ", rent this..

It's very unlikely you'll regret it..

Paul
paul@whatever-dude.com