The Big Bad Swim (2006) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
2May/101

The Big Bad Swim (2006)

Danny LIKEI'm sure all of you read Andrew's review of The Last Days of Disco earlier in the week (I know I might have), and read his ruminations on age, change, and the subtle occult symbolism present in the combined discography of the Bee Gees.

I guess it's a weird thing nowadays to see a film try and tackle adulthood in any meaningful manner. Judd Apatow's films seem to be steering the discourse at the moment, and here's what you can deduce from them: men are idiot simpletons until they decide to be responsible, which mostly comes from the realization that women are annoying shrews that men must appease to be able to see their breasts.

Now I might have simplified that a little (and sounded bitter as fuck, which is nothing new), but examining adulthood beyond the confines of simply 'entering it' seems passe and, worst of all, unprofitable in the mainstream.

One of the pleasures of The Big Bad Swim is its distinctive aim away from the easy niceties of the mainstream take on adulthood. The gallery of misfits begin with one shared trait, their fear of swimming, and spreads out into the other neuroses that dominate their lives.

Out of the dozen or so people in the class, the film spends most of its time on three main characters:

Jeff Branson is Noah, the swim instructor. He's a former Olympic hopeful who now spends his time teaching swim classes and trying to drown out what his life might have been with drugs and drink. The movie begins with the death of his beloved pet dog which helps to set off a chain of events that slowly break him out of his stupor. During this, it doesn't help that he first meets...

Jess Weixler as Jordan. She plays the indie comedy's prerequisite stripper, but, in some vague sense of a miracle, she's not a super sexed up kitten that movies always draw on. She's vulnerable, spending her days as a casino hostess and still stuck living at home. Her work disgusts her, and men disgust her as well. When she encounters Noah, she finds a wounded soul and a mystery that envelops her. She also winds up making a friend with her swim partner...

Paget Brewster, AKA Amy. Amy is a mathematics teacher undergoing a messy divorce with another teacher in the school that she works. He's been having an affair on her and, with her world upside down, she wants to try and conquer a fear of drowning that she's had since childhood. Amy has probably the most fleshed out role in the movie; she's an authoritarian who finds her world crumbling which she tries to compensate for in a multitude of ways.

So these characters, between combating phobias about their past, their sexuality and their marriage, begin to form a bond of trust. It's not an unmitigated attack for the heartstrings, but a quiet, hopeful look at making friends and overcoming some hurdles of adulthood.

The director has a light touch, and the movie glows with a soft aquatic blue hue. Watching these characters grow and overcome their troubles is a treat, but the ending is gentle while refusing to give the audience all of the answers it wants. Like most of growing up, you will have to close your eyes and hope for the best.

Before I go, I do want to complain about one thing. Here's the cover art for this movie:

Jesus Christ on a pogo stick. What's this movie about? That small group of eclectics on the bottom or TITS? How degrading is this to anyone female who worked on the film? It has a nice honest friendship between two women, a fun and sweet premise, but the only way the producers think this is going to go off the shelf is with a big pair of breasts. It's insulting, and not at all what the film deserves.

The Big Bad Swim is currently available on Netflix Instant.

The Big Bad Swim (2006)

Trailer | IMDB
Directed by Ishai Setton
Written by Daniel Schechter
Starring Paget Brewster, Jeff Branson, and Jess Weixler

Posted by Danny

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  1. Hi,
    As the cinematographer of “The Big Bad Swim”, I appreciate the nice things you have to say about the film. It is one of my favorite movies I have worked on, and I agree with most of your observations. However, I have to say I don’t think it’s fair to blame the producers for the idiotic cover art. I can assure you there was a very hard-fought battle with the distributor over this issue, and the resulting cover is a source of embarrassment to many of the people who worked on this fine film to this day.
    -Josh

    PS: I would also like to recommend that anyone interested in seeing this movie not watch it instantly on Netflix, but watch the physical DVD instead. This is the only movie I have ever watched instantly on Netflix that is cropped to the incorrect 4:3 aspect ratio, which ruins many of the shots in the film. I don’t know why, in this day and age, anyone would want to stream a widescreen movie to their computer in the 4:3 aspect ratio, but I just chalk it up to one more bumbling mistake by the incompetent distribution company.


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