ponedjeljak, 19.07.2010.

At the Diner, On "Swingers"

Thoughts: At the Diner, On "Swingers"

A young, slender Vince Vaughn stars opposite Jon Favreau in the charming 1996 comedy film "Swingers", about a group of friends who go out of their way to be casual.

Favreau is Mike. Mike just got out a six-year relationship, a fact he feels obliged to share with everyone he meets. Vaughn is Trent. Trent doesn't believe in relationships, opting for the swinger lifestyle.

Mike and Trent, much to Mike's dismay, are close friends. And Trent's determined to help Mike get over his now ex-girlfriend and move on, preferably to a new girl every night.

That's the gist of the story. They set out to be swingers or die trying.

Now, Mike and Trent are friends not because they share a lot of traits, but because they have nothing in common except their friendship. Because of that, they're perfect for each other - nothing keeps them together, so they've got nothing to lose by being together. What women offer them, a deeper personal connection based on common interests and likes, holds them hostage to fear. A friendship like theirs demands only one thing: existence. It need not be based on anything but itself. What it offers is freedom and support. No questions asked. Exactly as the tagline points out: Cocktails first, questions later.

Otherwise Mike would've killed Trent in his sleep long ago. You see, Trent's a bit obnoxious, a bit of an idiot, yet inexplicably charming and lovable. You're not sure which part you dislike more, the obnoxiousness or the charm. But that's friendship.

The other characters aren't as important - they're background scenery, there to give us a few extra jokes and a bit of context. Which is perfectly alright, because "Swingers" is about Mike and Trent. It's not about swinging. It's not even about Mike's quest for emancipation, though that does play a pivotal role in the movie.

Favreau plays Mike like a well-meaning, likable loser. Here "loser" doesn't imply a lack of anything other than the actual will to change - as his friends point out on several occasions, he's money. He just doesn't know it yet.

Vaughn is confusing in his portrayal of Trent. At first you're not sure if he's not really trying or if the character's mentally challenged. After a while you realize: the character's not really trying. That is, he's trying desperately not to try. To be casual, laid-back. He is, what Bowie would call (irreverently referencing lord Buckley), the Nazz. And you're not just born that way.

Trent acts suave and swinger-savvy, but sometimes he doesn't know what he's doing. The scene has rules, he knows some of them and guesses the rest, stubbornly believing he must be right because he's successful. And yes, he does succeed, but you're not sure how. He seems to inhabit a parallel universe which somehow oozes into our own. You don't think it's bad writing because you've seen it happen in real life: act confident enough and no one will notice you're making it up as you go along.

Well, at least until you screw up.

Punchline, for those who've seen the movie or don't mind jerks ruining it:

Considering "Swingers" are about these two guys, what idea do they try to offer us? Do they tell us that we're all money and that, if we try hard enough, good things will happen? Not really. They sest that "conscience doth make cowards of us all" (and even reference Hamlet's famous soliloquy at one point). They demand: Stop thinking about it, just do something. Not necessarily directly pertaining to that one thing that set you off. You need to put the wheels in motion and see where that'll get you. 'Cause it will get you somewhere - either Vegas, baby, or LA.

Doesn't really matter. This place is dead anyway.

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