90's-vember: Swingers (1996) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

90’s-vember: Swingers (1996)

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With my cohorts already taking a Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino film and the fact that my recent break-up with Robert Rodriguez was still to fresh to look back at his good films, I was all set to review Glengary Glen Ross, my favorite Mamet film. That was until I was talking to an old friend about the movies I was going to do and he said that he was surprised that I wasn’t doing Swingers. I had an epiphany at that moment and realized that there was no other movie that I could review.

The reason Swingers was such a no brainer is not because I love the film (which I do) but because for most of the late 90’s I tried to live the movie. My friends David, Matt and I all wore the retro shirts, shoes and chains. I used to listen to all of the swing music that the movie helped make popular and would have given anything to live their lives. I wanted to grow up and live that life.The movie thanks to the guerilla shooting style from director Doug Liman, improvisational dialogue from real-life friends and a breezy tone, Swingers felt less like a film and more like you were a fly on the wall during their adventures. It was funny,painful and it seemed real. To say I idolized this film would be an understatement.

Then a funny thing happened as I grew older, I realized what the film truly was, not a celebration of the Swinger lifestyle but a melancholy look at how their life isn’t the greatest and is going nowhere fast. When I was younger I thought Trent (Vince Vaughn) was so cool and Mikey (Jon Favreau) was a horrible mess of a man. Yet the “cool kids” in the movie like Trent and his group are stuck in a rut while Mike changes through the movie and has grown in leaps and bounds by the end of the film.

Most of my favorite films I would never want to see a sequel to, but in 2016 I would love there to be a Swingers Too, where we catch up with the characters twenty years later. I would love to see where the characters are in life and the careers they have. I watch the movie every few years, not so much because it is a favorite movie, but I like to feel like I am catching up with old friends.

How does this film exemplify the 90’s?

  • Lots of cordless phones and answering machines scenes including the use of a calling card.
  • Catchphrases that caught on  like “Beautiful Babies” and “Money”.
  • A skinny Vince Vaughn
  • Numerous scenes of people playing the Sega Genesis
  • A character idolizes Wayne Gretzky on the LA Kings.
  • References and homages to Goodfellas, Reservoir Dogs, House of Pain, Boyz n the Hood, and "Star Trek: Deep Space 9."
  • Swing dancing is a main part of the third act of the film

What makes this my pick?

While I might not want to be exactly like them anymore, I would still love to hang out with the group for a weekend. While Danny’s pick of Kicking and Screaming speaks more to me personally and mirrors some of my life at that time, Swingers shaped the movies I watched. Fifteen years later many of the main actors in this film are still heavy hitters in the industry and careers I follow. Doug Liman helped steer The Bourne Identity into a huge action franchise, Vince Vaughn became one of the biggest comedy stars, Jon Favreau is now directing tent pole films and Ron Livingston starred in one of the biggest cult comedies of the last twenty years, Office Space. Swingers is the perfect blend of comedy, great lines/catchphrases and a touch of morose pathos.

Also, I still can’t watch the scene with Mike and the answering machine without wincing.

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Posted by Ryan

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