Vaughan and Favreau have worked together in several films, most notably in Favreau’s self-penned Swingers in 1996. Directed by Doug Liman, it’s a hip, trendy comedy with cool, likeable characters and endlessly quotable lines. Or is it?
When i first saw Swingers over 10 years ago, i loved it. I loved the snappy dialogue and the laid back attitude of the characters, as they hit the best nightspots and hot parties. My experience re-watching it this week was entirely different.
Mike (Favreau) is a comedian slash actor, who has been in La for sixth months since his girlfriend left him. Mike is really the main character. Now, usually, the main character is likeable, and you want him to pull through and triumph in the end. After six months, Mike is still whining over some girl who didn’t want him, neglecting his career, and more importantly his friends.
Trent (Vaughn) has been desperately trying to bring Mike back out of his shell, re-connect him to the outside world, but Mike won’t let it go. How, then, can someone who feels so put-upon by the world then insist on making his friend, the only one trying to help him out, dress up like an asshole on a trip to Vegas. Trying to look like a high roller to get free stuff, Mike instead, with just a couple hundred dollars to his name, looks like a loser before he even gets into a position to double down. His jokes aren’t even funny, despite the ancient business cards he still carries around announcing him as a comedian. When Trent is about to get lucky, his just reward for trying to find his friend a good time, Mike ruins it, selfishly putting his neurotic tendencies ahead of his friend’s happiness.
Trent, of course, is no great shakes himself. Lively, interesting and charismatic? How about loud, arrogant and obnoxious? Trent’s idea of a great night is to chat-up an equally vacuous female LA wannabe, then tear up her phone number straight after. It clearly goes over his head that this ‘beautiful baby’ wouldn’t have a clue who he was if he rang her the next morning, let alone in five days time. He cheats at video hockey, and berates (in a borderline racist manner) the poor delivery guy, who in LA is probably a fellow actor with a comparable success rate to Trent.
Yeah, about that acting career. Trent’s full of great stories about the parts he didn’t get, but on this evidence his best work has to be consistently acting like a jerk. It maybe doesn’t help that he has friends around him that are worse then he is.
Sue is clearly an angry young man. He joins Trent in over-serious video hockey and delivery guy-baiting, and shares his misogynistic view of women, though in this case without even the ability to talk women into bed. Worse is to come however. Macho posturing in the street leads to Sue pulling a pistol, Boyz n the Hood-style, on some street punks. When Mike dares to call him on it, Sue questions his manhood with some home truths. Not cool man. I blame the parents for the gun thing though. Come on, any father who names his son after the Johnny Cash song is clearly the kinda guy who then pressures him into acting like one tough SOB.
On the surface, Mike’s friend Rob (Ron Livingston) is a pretty nice guy, giving sage advice, and coming round to pick him up when he’s at his lowest. But he’s clearly a pretentious prick. Despite clearly having no aptitude for golf, the two of them play it anyway, and then lie about their scores. And Rob, because of one stint in Shakespeare, thinks that nooo, he’s too good to play Goofy. Let me tell you something Rob, you think Bobby De Niro thinks he’s too good to play Goofy? Have you seen his films recently?
Charles (Alex Desert) is a pretty cool guy, i have to admit, but he’s a loser by association. Any man who has nothing better to do of a night than hang around with these cretins has some kind of issues, right? In the end, Mike meets an equally naive girl who also got dumped by someone who didn’t want her, Lorraine (Heather Graham). Well, i guess they deserve each other. Until she gets back with her ex, that is, and dumps him like yesterday’s garbage.
Trent sums up the attitude of this group best at the end of that night. Drunkenly berating the poor waitress of a late night coffee shop, (what is it with Trent’s hate for food service employees?), stamping on tables with no regard for property. But Trent gets his comeuppance. At the end of the movie, the ‘beautiful baby’ he’s making eyes at only has eyes for her beautiful baby.
What’s that? You think i’m wrong about Swingers, too harsh for you? That’s ok, ‘cos you’re money. You’re so money and you don’t even know it. That’s the saddest part.
Swingers is available now on DVD