Romantic comedies are often criticized for portraying that true love conquers all, and that relationships can last, as long as the two people love each other. But the new film Swinging with the Finkels strives to prove that no matter how much chemistry two people have together in the beginning of a relationship, they eventually lose the sparks they once had for each other, and no longer have intense chemistry. However, despite writer-director Jonathan Newman‘s good intentions, the film unfortunately fails to maintain any interest in the subject.
Swinging with the Finkels follows the everyday, mundane life of married London couple Ellie (Mandy Moore) and Alvin Finkel (Martin Freeman), who have seen the lust fade from their marriage several years after their wedding. After their friend Peter (Jonathan Silverman) admits that he cheated on his wife Janet (Melissa George), the Finkels are determined to spice up their marriage and re-ignite the sparks they once felt towards each other.
After debating what they can do to save their marriage, Ellie suggests that they “swing,” and have consensual affairs. They find the ideal couple, Richard (Angus Deayton) and Clementine (Daisy Beaumont), who have similar interests and the same marital problems as them. After their night with Richard and Clementine, the Finkels debate whether or not swinging actually helped revive their relationship.
The romantic comedy marks Moore’s return to live-action films after a three-year hiatus. Unfortunately, Ellie bears little resemble to the characters that helped garner attention for the actress in her early movie career. While Moore was praised for capturing the sensitive, sheltered personality of Jamie Sullivan in A Walk to Remember and the conservative, self-righteous temperament of Hilary Faye in the religious comedy-drama Saved!, there’s nothing memorable about Ellie.
Moore plays the character safe, and failed to bring any personality to the role, which is a disappointment, given what a charming actress she is. After appearing in films for the past decade, Moore is still one of the most relatable, down-to-earth actresses in Hollywood, so she should have been able to expertly portray the frustrations Ellie’s experiencing with Alvin.
But Ellie’s lack of distinction can also partially be blamed on the screenplay for Swinging with the Finkels, as Newman failed to infuse Ellie with any character or personality. The majority of the script focused on Ellie and Alvin complaining about their diminishing lust for each other, but no real reason was given on why they no longer felt the same way towards each other.
It becomes increasingly harder to want the two to stay together over the course of the movie, as the beginning of their relationship is very minimally shown. There’s no proof that the two ever truly have chemistry together, and its hard to imagine Ellie and Alvin truly being passionate together.
Swinging with the Finkels also fails to be a distinctive romantic comedy, as Alvin and Ellie act more like friends than husband and wife. While the purpose of the film is to show that not all couples can maintain their initial passion for each other, it seems unlikely the two would be together in real life. They have little in common; Ellie is a clothing designer, eager to conquer the fashion world and make a name for herself, while Alvin seems content with being with his friends and maintaining a low profile in his office. Ellie is also willing to try new things in their sex life, including bringing in new partners, while Alvin is comfortable with keeping their physical relationship low-key.
The romantic comedy was supposed to not only prove Moore’s continued talent as an actress in a mature, adult role, but also serve as a relatable story that married couples who are also experiencing a decrease in chemistry can connect with. While Newman deserves credit for wanting to make a realistic film chronicling marriage’s true problems, Ellie and Alvin unfortunately fail to maintain any personality or romantic connection together.
Swinging with the Finkels strives to offer a unique perspective on saving a marriage, and that some men and women have different ideas from the usual gender norms on how to reignite chemistry, but the one-dimensional characters unfortunately offer no support to those ideas.