Swingers (1996) is the ultimate debunking of male bravado and dating swagger that bristles with hilarious dialogue, crackles with spot on comedic characterisation and nails the comic timing with perfection. Originally written as a springboard by Jon Favreau, who plays mournful Mike (he’d later gain huge success as the director behind the Iron Man series), the movie first propelled director Doug Liman, who also acted as cinematographer, and co-star Vince Vaughn (before the perpetual bags under his eyes) who plays the scene-stealing Trent.
Swingers is brilliant low-budget filmmaking that makes excellent use of real Los Angeles locations, such as legendary bars the Dresden and the Derby. The early scenes at Las Vegas are very funny as Trent tries in vain to get Mike laid; “Dude, you are so money and you don’t even know it”. There’s not a single scene wasted in this movie; it’s a lean, mean, swingin’ machine, and is guaranteed to make you laugh. Yes, it’s a very “guy” kinda movie, but it also serves well as an alternate date flick, as women get a hilarious insight into the pretense and insecurities young men swamp themselves in when it comes to the cute babies who wanna party.
I’m loathe to call Swingers a rom-com, but there’s poignancy, albeit very subtle; Trent makes that very clear at move’s end, drunk and pathetic mostly, but, undeniably, a friendly asshole. The soundtrack fits perfectly, mostly retro swing jazz, but some nicely pitched classic funk, and there’s notable support from the fellow swingers Ron Livingstone as Mike’s East Coast pal Rob, Patrick Van Horn as Sue and Alex Desert as Charles (“It’s dead here anyway”), and then, of course, there’s young Heather Graham as Lorraine.
The movie might be a semi-autobiographical account of Jon Favreau’s romantic endeavours, but it’s also a love affair with a few certain macho flicks – chiefly the machismo gangster strutting of Reservoir Dogs and Goodfellas. And for the old schoolers, there’s a direct reference to Frank Sinatra in that Mike, Trent, Rob, Sue and Charles represent the five Rat Pack members, Hollywood swingin’ royalty.
But let’s be clear about one thing: Swingers is not about wife-swapping. This is swinging in the original sense of the word; living for the moment with a cocktail in one hand, silver cufflinks in your jacket pocket, a money clip in your back pocket, and a jazz spring in your step. So c’mon, loosen your tie, and jump along for the ride, it’s very funny money, baby.
— Swingers film review written by Bryn Tilly of cultprojections.com