Sometimes, I have to revisit some films that I haven't seen in years, if only to remind myself how powerful they are. One of my recent Netflix rentals I haven't seen since it first came out. I was in my mid-20s, hanging out with my own personal Rat Pack of high school pals, fumbling my way through grad school, and living in a crappy apartment. It was an age of cluelessness, but a heck of a lot of fun.
In that spirit, I caught Swingers again, and it not only captured those days for me, but - in my humble opinion - should be mandatory viewing for all guys. Yes, even these two.
On the surface, it's about one guy (Jon Favreau) pining away for the girl he left behind on the East Coast to pursue his dreams. He's in his mid-20s, hanging out with his own personal rat Pack, fumbling his way through show biz, and living in a crappy apartment. All right, it came out in the big "swing dance revival" craze of the mid-90s (and has plenty of cool-as-heck tunes), but if you're thinking this is just a cheap cash-in, you'd be wrong.
There is so much that works in this movie, and that helps it hold up - it's gorgeously shot, brilliantly written and acted (especially the comedy magic of Vince Vaughn), and pretty much has everything a movie could ask for. Great funny, quotable lines! A trip to Vegas! Hot women! Heather Graham! A guy in pork pie hat! (The only movie that shares its tone and theme is Free Enterprise, which has the added bonus of William Shatner). The only scene in this movie that doesn't work is a discussion of how filmmakers rip each other off, followed by an homage to a famous crime film. Other than that, this movie works on all four cylinders, and you end up wanting more - if that doesn't make a film great, I don't know what does.
But Swingers' true strength isn't that it gives us a snapshot of a certain event in time, but is a true guy's movie. Emotions are deftly underplayed, and the moments of insight don't come because of screenplay mechanics, but because we see a group of men beginning to grow up. No Hallmark moments, just the realization that things aren't as smooth as we would like, and that the rules we're taught no longer begin to apply. It's the kind of movie that demands respect not because it takes itself seriously, but because it reveals its truths through humor, wit, and charm. By the end, you'll end up wanting to order a Dewar's on the rocks, or if you're like me, a strong bourbon-and-coke. (If you're under 21, I suggest Vernor's ginger ale, just like Scott at Polite Dissent).
Finally, some props to Logan at House of the Ded, this weekend will also see me watching another favorite film, which he and I agree needs to be "shown the love" - I'm talking, of course, about Zero Effect.
But that's a post for another day.