Mike, the lovesick protagonist of Swingers, has the slab-jawed, slightly baffled appeal of a young William Bendix--and only about half the savoir-faire. A struggling comedian with no gig and not many jokes, obsessed with a girlfriend who's left him and gone back to New York, poor Mike is stranded high and dry in L.A. with only his misery for company.
Thank God for male bonding. And the jitterbug. And being "money."
In what could be the Gen X hit of the year, Mike's blustering, goofy pal Trent (Vince Vaughn) tries to cheer him up with a trip to Las Vegas--where Mike manages to transform a fling with a pretty cocktail waitress into a retelling of his broken-heart tale. Back in L.A., Trent, Rob (Ron Livingston) and Sue (Patrick Van Horn) try to revive their friend with par-three golf, drinks aplenty at the city's low-down retro swing clubs (put up the trend alerts) and a round of crummy parties. Good-spirited, they even convince themselves that Mike is "money"--cool. But nothing works: In the movie's funniest scene, our hangdog hero starts up, screws up and closes up a romance with a new woman without ever talking to her--just her answering machine.
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Written (from scroungy life) and produced (from almost nothing) by a classic Hollywood underdog named Jon Favreau (who also plays Mike) and directed and photographed by his friend Doug Liman, Swingers means to be a comic insiders' view of twentysomething male insecurities. Its real charm, though, lies in something it probably didn't intend. It's an insider's view of struggling young moviemakers trying to finish their first picture for the rock-bottom sum of $250,000. All the seams and cracks show, and en route, the characters even talk about the famous movie scenes that really move them--just before Favreau and Liman copy those scenes: Scorsese's through-the-Copa-kitchen bit from Goodfellas, assorted Tarantino poses from Reservoir Dogs and other buff stuff.
That these guys made their debut for lunch money is testament to their ingenuity--and the force with which they bugged L.A. clubowners to let them shoot inside for free. If Swingers turns out to be this year's Clerks, so much the better. It's full of youthful vigor, slangy new attitude and innocent blundering. Never again, you suspect, will these young strivers feel quite so hungry, pure and free.
Swingers. Written and co-produced by Jon Favreau. Directed and photographed by Doug Liman. With Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Ron Livingston and Patrick Van Horn.