|Swingers (Miramax Collector's Series)|
|Written by Tara O'Shea|
|Tuesday, 24 September 2002|
"Swingers" is a hip, witty, and at times even poignant look at a group of friends who flock to the trendy singles scene but never seem to score -- at least, not in the ways that count. Mike Peters (Jon Favreau) is a truly miserable transplanted New Yorker trying to eke out a living as a comedian in Los Angeles. Having broken up with his girlfriend six months earlier, his best friend Trent (Vince Vaughn) decides that a trip to Vegas is just what his buddy needs to shake his blues. This kicks off an examination of one man's lack of self-esteem and how he "gets his groove back," so to speak.
Vaughn and Favreau have an easy comradely chemistry that sells them as best friends, and both give sharp, winning performances in this quirky little no-budget mood piece. Although it’s a hilarious comedy, the laughs in the film are mainly at the dumb, dumb things people do when they're desperate and lonely, but as pitiable as Mike is, he is not there simply to be ridiculed. The movie isn't as slick or packaged as most big-budget Hollywood fare, and that actually lends to its credibility. Writer Favreau's dialogue is naturalistic and snappy and the cinematography gives the movie a very real feeling, while the script itself plays with the audience (such as Mike's conversation with his answering machine, which tells him in a Speak-n-Spell voice to get his act together). The energy of the movie is a combination of stereotypical neurotic New Yorker and laid-back L.A. hipster, but it doesn't feel forced or artificial. Overall, a tight script, excellent performances, and deft direction made this an indie gem that holds up over time.
Visually, the image is a bit soft, and the original film's lighting was natural rather than studio, so that gives it less of a packaged, produced look. Skin tones are good, as are blacks -- which is useful, considering how much of the film takes place in bars and dives. The soundtrack is full of great tunes that give the feel of Vegas and vintage Hollywood, even when the guys are making out with girls in a trailer park. The sound mix is fairly standard, and the dialogue can get lost at times in the mix. However, the music comes through loud and clear, and helps set the tone of the whole movie.
The disc is packed with extras, including two entertaining and informative commentary tracks, including an "illustrative commentary" (a technique used on other DVD commentaries such as "Men In Black") which allows the actors to "draw" on the film in order to point out specifics. The disc also includes a fascinating four-part documentary that covers every aspect of the production from script to screen. If you've ever been interested in low-budget filmmaking, then you'll be overjoyed at the wealth and depth of the info presented. The cast commentary is particularly entertaining, as Favreau wrote and starred, and his onscreen chemistry with Vaughn seems to have been mirrored off-screen as well. It's also rather interesting to see how surprised pretty much everyone involved was that "Swingers" became a hit. The deleted scenes were culled directly from the dailies. They’re raw but it’s interesting to see what got cut and what those scenes would have added to the film.
Also included on the disc is "Swing Blade," an uproarious parody in the form of a trailer for a fictional film that combines "Swingers" with "Sling Blade." Rounding out the special features are your standard array of cast bios. Strangely, the ubiquitous trailer is not present. However, there is a gallery of print marketing materials, such as matchbooks, cocktail coasters, and bumper stickers.