Swingers May 5, 2016
Trent (Vince Vaughn) is the friend you have that’s only really fun if he’s your friend. To fellow diners, gamblers, and lovers that pepper the room, he’s an obnoxious extrovert with a bad habit of calling everything “money,” of calling everyone “baby.” He likes to loudly flirt with waitresses, to rowdily get into playful arguments with his pack of buddies. He’s a riot, but he takes some getting used to, too; just meet him and you might find yourself exasperated by his unstoppable swagger.
Most of the time, you want him around — he’s the charismatic friend that makes you extra witty when in his presence. But for now, he’s the last person Mike (Jon Favreau) needs. A struggling comedian trying to adjust from New York to Los Angeles, Mike is just getting over a brutal breakup with his girlfriend of six years. Though it’s been six months since they last spoke, he can’t seem to think of anything besides the relationship he was once a part of. He’d rather drown in his self-pity than move on. Trent, however, is determined that a couple of one-night-stands and couple of memorable flirtations will do him some good. Maybe he’s right. But to Mike, looking for romance is about as appealing as competing in a triathlon on an empty stomach, fifty pounds overweight. Too bad Trent's pep-talks are nearly impossible to withstand.
1996’s Swingers, directed by Doug Liman and written by Favreau, is perhaps not the bromantic comedy I’ve made it out to be — I’ve only done so because this central story is the single piece of story really to be found amidst its never-ending conversational forays. It’s a talking movie of the Chasing Amy sort, concerned with the banter its characters participate in more than with the coordination of something plot-driven. I don’t have much of a problem with that so long as the talking’s compelling and well-staged, and Favreau, fortunately, is a writer able to make restaurant booth exchanges and long-winded stories have luminosity that make the mundane more bewitching than the cinematic.
That’s a feat, too. Favreau, who wrote the screenplay with his close friends in mind, concocts characters and relationships that go beyond plain convincing — the characters are as unintentionally hilarious as they are effortlessly human, hardly a faux result of a college-based Screenwriting 101 course. And the actors do Favreau’s writing justice. Though his own performance as the film’s focal lonelyheart is the best and most touching of Swingers, Vaughn is spectacular as his loud-mouthed sidekick, Ron Livingston effective as the stable counter to Vaughn’s Trent. Heather Graham, who stops by for the film’s finale, is a sweet, potential love interest worthy of stripping away Mike’s vulnerability.
Swingers is more a chatterbox than it is a straightforward comedy, drama, or romance, but get lost in the dialogue and you’ll like the direction it takes you. Favreau’s writing is as defiantly naturalistic as it is easily funny, Liman’s direction breezy. Italicized by Vaughn’s enthusiastic, star-making turn, Swingers makes for a film of youthful cool we don’t mind bowing down to. B+