Rated R; Directed by Doug Liman; Starring Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Rob Livingston, Heather Graham
After watching Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau in “The Break-Up” last week I had an urge to see more of them. I had one movie in mind: “Swingers.” This movie has a special place in my heart. It was Labor Day weekend in 1996 and I was at the Telluride Film Festival. My best friend Wendy and I went to see the first showing of “Swingers” late that first night. It was one of the funniest, cleverest movies I’ve seen and the audience members (many of them in the film business) roared with laughter.
The story is about a group of under-employed actors and comics who still find a way to enjoy Los Angeles. Poor Mike (Jon Favreau) is trying to get over a long-term relationship, but he can’t help but think of her. After all, it’s not easy to meet women in L.A. The type of car you drive can doom your chances.
Mike’s friend, Trent (Vince Vaughn), is the opposite. Assured of his place in the world, he is full of all kinds of helpful advice for Mike. In one hilarious scene, Trent insists on a trip to Vegas (“Vegas, baby!”) that does not turn out as planned. Of course, when Mike ignores Trent’s advice about how soon to call a woman after getting her number (or “digits” in “Swingers” parlance) it leads to a scene that is too painfully funny. The entire audience was howling, “Noooo!” as Mike kept making matters worse.
There’s also Rob (Rob Livingston), who is debating whether to take a role as Goofy at Disneyland, and Sue (Patrick Van Horn), a dedicated video-game playing friend. All four young men act as if they are Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Dressed in styles similar to the Rat Packers, they drink their martinis, pick up the “babies” and listen to swing music. This is the movie that kick-started the swing revival. With Big Bad Voodoo Daddy performing, swing dancers are jumping to the music as Mike and the guys keep a cool attitude. It’s infectious.
Favreau is perfect as Mike, with his cuddly, hangdog looks; while Trent was a break out role for Vince Vaughn. His manic energy was astounding. Favreau wrote the screenplay and found a perfect director for the project in Doug Liman (“Go,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”). It all makes for a stylish independent film that left audiences laughing and nodding in acknowledgement of the characters’ foibles.
I still remember 1996 and the high of watching “Swingers” at Telluride. Director Doug Liman and stars Jon Favreau and Vince Vaugh were even there. Still, it was Wendy and I returning to our lodging and shouting out Trent’s lines: “You’re so money!” or “Vegas, baby!” that make me smile today. Of course, the movie still makes me laugh.