We Got Netflix Covered: Swingers, Dream Homes And Liam Neeson Fighting Wolves…

Independent Pick: Swingers (1996)

swingers

With Jon Favreau making a welcome return to the world of independent filmmaking this month with his well-received Chef, now is a good time to look back at where it all started – Swingers.

Swingers is Favreau’s first script, and is apparently based loosely on his own experience. Featuring a group of unemployed actors in Los Angeles during the 1990s swing revival, it stars Favreau as Mike – a comedian and actor who left New York and a girlfriend to pursue a career in LA. We learn that, rather than hitting the big time, he has found himself hosting an ‘open mic’ night once a week and signing with an agent that also represents magicians. Lonely and obsessed with his previous relationship, his friends Trent (Vince Vaughn), Rob (Ron Livingston), Sue (Patrick Van Horn) and Charles (Alex Desert) variously take him to parties and bars to help him move on.

This is truly excellent filmmaking. The script is sharp, with great dialogue and rich characterization, and the story flows effortlessly, with biting observations about their chosen industry invisibly woven into conversations about life, love and how obnoxious people think dating should be conducted. The music is fabulous, too, and is used as a tool within the scenes rather than being tacked on as an afterthought. It all amounts to a movie that fits perfectly within the work of Doug Liman – who not only directed, but also served as cinematographer here.

Swingers was Liman’s second-ever feature film as director, which he soon followed up with Go and The Bourne Identity. Swingers gives us an opportunity to see this master really trying out various shots, angles, lighting and shutter speeds though, flexing his visually-creative muscles and gaining the experience he would later bring to bear on enormous blockbusters such as Mr & Mrs Smith and the soon-to-be released Edge Of Tomorrow.

All that being said, this is Favreau’s show. Eighteen years on, it is deeply satisfying to return to Swingers and watch Vince Vaughn and the man himself hatch from the restrictive chrysalis of irregular bit-parts, and unfurl their talented wings into two stunningly creative careers. Swingers showcased Vaughn’s skills to the extent that it got him his part in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, while Favreau would later kick down the door on Iron Man, letting the Marvel Cinematic Universe in. But it all began here – with the simple story of a man trying to get over a relationship, among friends in LA. Highly recommended.