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An ensemble comedy about five guys, all in their twenties, all coping with the mysteries of life and women, and is set in the back streets and sometimes hidden clubs of Hollywood. It's a story told in the language of the "cocktail nation," a growing twentysomething retro-Swing dance movement that's taken Hollywood by storm and is beginning to sweep the nation. Mike is down in the dumps because he left his girlfriend behind in New York when he came to Hollywood to seek his acting fortune. Instead, he's found loneliness and the blues. Now, after six months of dealing with Mike, his buddy Trent and the other swingers have had enough. It's time to bring Mike back to life
For more about Swingers and the Swingers Blu-ray release, see Swingers Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on August 17, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Ron Livingston, Heather Graham, Alex Désert, Brooke Langton
Director: Doug Liman
» See full cast & crew
Swingers Blu-ray Review
Is this Blu-ray 'money'?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, August 17, 2011
It can be amusing to leaf through old fan magazines and read the breathless prose about long ago movie stars and their romantic exploits. It's especially funny when you read something like a "happily ever after" story about Elizabeth Taylor and Nicky Hilton or how Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher were inseparable. Even more eyebrow raising, at least with some 20-20 hindsight, are the many 1950's and 1960's articles about Rock Hudson's supposed female conquests. What becomes instantly apparent when reading any of these old products of public relations hacks (a technical term, no offense intended) is that there is a sizable disconnect between illusion and reality, certainly something that's a propos for an industry built on illusion. Nothing much has changed, really, with latter day stars, though the venue of the gossip now tends to be social media like Twitter or Facebook or internet sites like TMZ or Wonderwall, rather than the fan mags of old, most of which shuffled off the printing press coil long, long ago. Audiences caught up in the "magic" of watching their favorite stars on screen and reading about their exploits usually have an unrealistic apprehension about what these people must be like in "real life," something that can be a real eye opener if you spend any time in and around Los Angeles and see how decidedly "regular" some of these stars are, despite their star trappings. The "regular" factor is probably even more "real" with up-and-comers, those still trying to break in to the industry, attending one cattle call audition after another while desperately attempting to network and, if they have time, make a romantic connection or two along the way. That's the basic idea behind the very appealing 1996 film Swingers, one which posits writer-star Jon Favreau as a sort of sibling character to any typical neurotic found in a Woody Allen film (usually played by Woody himself). Favreau's character Mike is a newcomer to the Los Angeles scene after years in New York never quite making it as a comedian, and while his career is similarly not exactly skyrocketing in Hollywood, he's also desperately hobbled by his recent breakup with his girlfriend of six years.
Mike is so completely obsessed with his ex that he can't stop checking his answering machine, a machine that also "speaks" to him in a proto-Stephen Hawking voice and more or less tells him what a loser he is. Mike does have a network of buddies, all of whom want him to forget the ex and start playing the field again. To that end, Mike's player bud Trent (Vince Vaughn in the early role which first brought him mainstream attention) spirits Mike out of the claustrophobic confines of his Los Angeles apartment and takes him to Las Vegas ("Vegas, baby, Vegas" became a catchphrase after the film was released). Despite what looks like some promising prospects with a waitress and her actress friend (a "Dorothy" at a Vegas Wizard of Oz show), Mike's insistence on checking his answering machine yet again for another non-existent message from his ex scuttles the evening, at least as far as sex is concerned. (The two girls seem to fall head over heels in love with Mike for his devotion to his ex, something that leaves Trent—clad in only a towel—stewing on a couch).
Once back in Los Angeles, Trent and Mike's other friends attempt to school the hapless nerd on the correct protocol for wooing (and of course bedding) a woman, advice which is hilariously incompetent and which only leads Mike to one disastrous flirting mishap after another. Playing out against this overall plot arc is a nicely detailed look at what it's like to be a journeyman actor, one consigned to accepting a "role" as Goofy ("Hey, at least it's Disney, right?") or the indignity of trying to land a role written for an 11 year old when you're in your twenties. In fact, the struggling actor element of Swingers is in a way more captivating than the romantic stumbling of Mike, which (again like many a Woody Allen film) gets to be a little annoying after a while.
Swingers might actually be seen as a progenitor of the "bromance" rather than the more typical buddy comedy, for it is the relationship between Mike and Trent, rather than any of the romantic exploits, that give the film its special flavor and its most enduring aspect. This may seem somewhat odd, especially given the arc for Mike where he actually is able to finally craft a semi-successful relationship with another new transplant to Los Angeles (played by Heather Graham), and yet the "love story" angle to Swingers is almost a sidebar to the banter and interplay between the two male leads. In fact, cynics might even accuse the romantic aspect as being a MacGuffin of sorts, something that gets the characters talking and moving about the playing field, but which ultimately doesn't have to mean much in and of itself, if anything at all.
Favreau, who evidently dashed off the script quickly, has a fine ear for dialogue, even if some of his coinages become tiresome after a while. ("Wingman" has passed into the popular lexicon, but the oft-used "money" as a one size fits all adjective for awesomeness gets fewer and fewer laughs as the film winds on). What is notable here, though, is the fine attention to detail, especially with regard to Vaughn's character of Trent. Trent is a simmering stew of swagger and machismo, but what is also completely evident is that he has a good heart and in fact a certain weird sort of sweetness buried underneath the smarm. In fact, it's that sweetness which probably helped to bring Vaughn such attention, as his later work in the rom-com field has focused more and more intently on the kind of smarmy side of things.
It's a little surprising to see the name Doug Liman attached to this film as director, since Liman went on after Swingers to helm massive big budget spy thrillers like The Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. But he has a fine eye for the backstage and clubbing lives of these characters, and he brings a nice feeling of verisimilitude to the entire project. Liman and Favreau also wisely know not to overstay their welcome and the film is a brisk 90 or so minutes that maintains a fine sense of pacing and motivation. If there's a little bit of "Screenwriting 101" with the "tables turned" ending of the film, it's a small complaint in an otherwise enjoyably breezy film that proves actors can be losers, too, despite any PR hoo-hah to the contrary.
Swingers Blu-ray, Video Quality
Liman shot Swingers himself, and he invests the film with a quasi-verité look that uses a lot of low lighting and handheld cameras, but overall Swingers's AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1 looks reasonably sharp, if never overwhelmingly brilliant. Black levels are decent, though crush is readily apparent in many of the dimly lit night scenes and many of the interior club sequences. Contrast is generally very good, though on the opposite side of the spectrum, some of the intensely lit outdoor scenes (notably the boys' roadside moment as they leave Vegas) are just slightly overblown, leading to a bit of softness. While Swingers is certainly not going to jump to anyone's Top 10 list in terms of image quality, the Blu-ray offers a noticeable uptick in clarity and precision, and especially with regard to color and saturation. No egregious DNR has been applied to this release, so grain structure remains intact. The trade off is that grain structure can also contribute to a softer looking image than some might prefer.
Swingers Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Okay, I'm going to put on my fusspot musicological hat for a moment (I knew that double major in English and Music was going to pay off someday): the so-called "Swing" revival which Swingers supposedly celebrates is not Swing Music. Swing Music is big band music from the 1930's and 1940's, those jumpin' jivin' tunes from the likes of Goodman, Miller, Dorsey and others of their ilk. Swingers' lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is filled with what I would call the ersatz "swing-esque" music of Rat Packers like Dean Martin. These are simply pop vocal tunes from the 1950's and 1960's dressed up with some admittedly wonderful orchestrations and arrangements from the likes of Don Costa or Nelson Riddle, and most would be more properly labeled "lounge", which at least would indicate the sort of faux hipness factor that is played out in the hilarious scene with the older lounge duo performing "Stayin' Alive" in the film itself. When you also factor in more contemporary pop-rock tunes like "Magic Man" by Heart, Swingers' fans' claims that the film somehow propelled a neo-Swing renaissance seem at the best fanciful. All of this said (and I apologize for the mini-rant), Swingers' lossless stereo track sounds fine, even if it's incredibly narrow. There's really not even a lot of stereo activity here, but fidelity is strong, the source cues sound great, and dialogue is clear and crisp and always easy to hear. I personally would have loved a surround mix, not just for the score's purposes, but for the many party-casino-club sequences, where the sonic activity just sounds a tad crowded at times.
Swingers Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Swingers Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Swingers is a sweet hearted film with some very smart ensemble acting and one of the best "real life" feels for what it must be like for journeyman actors plying their trade in the semi-mean streets of Los Angeles. Favreau comes off a little bit like Woody Allen-lite in this film, but this is easily once of Vince Vaughn's better performances. Liman stages everything effortlessly and Swingers has a nicely wry sense of humor about itself that keeps everything moving along very nicely. While this isn't the sharpest looking Blu-ray in history, it's a step up from the old SD-DVD and at this price certainly comes Recommended.
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