It takes balls
the size of dump trucks to make a movie as trite, cliched and predictable
as Swimfan. It takes testes like Yosemite granite to put
so much labor into something so shitty, and to do it with so little
care or effort.
movies have some kernel of an original idea in them somewhere. Not
in Swimfan. Not only is there nothing new, nobody even tries.
I can see the Hollywood pitch meeting now.
What have you got?
Writer: Okay, I spent, like, three minutes at Carl's, Jr.
coming up with this.
Producer: I like it already.
Writer: Ready? Are you sitting down?
Producer: No, wait, yes.
Writer: It doesn't matter anyway. This won't surprise you.
Now, imagine a world exactly like the world you've seen a million
times before. And imagine a plot exactly like a million plots before.
A jilted lover turns psycho and stalks the jilting boy and tries
to ruin his life.
Producer: (on the edge of seat) Sounds like a lot of other
bad movies. I'm listening!
Writer: It's like Fatal Attraction meets Fatal
Attraction, only less scary and way shoddier.
Producer: (picking up phone) Dixie? Please bring in one of
those giant cardboard checks we give to writers. Make sure it has
lots of zeroes on it. And pronto! (slamming down phone) I'm sold,
kid! This is exactly the kind of tired, worn-out, bland thinking
we love to reward in this town.
It takes monster
nuts to have absolutely nothing to say, write a whole movie to prove
it, and find a director and studio who share your lack of vision.
Then you must have the conviction and strength of belief to see
your ass-ripping turd through to completion. You have to wake up
every morning and be excited to think "Today's the first day
of the rest of my life barfing up someone else's ideas." You
have to know that your story is entirely implausible and laughably
absurd, but not care for one second. You have to be willing to cave
in to every studio demand to make sure that the final product is
as compromised as possible. You have to pretend you care, yet put
something on the screen that shows you don't.
cornhole-clogging shittiness, it inspired me. The handful of you
who have read my reviews for a while know I've been listless; unemployed,
mostly drunk, pissed at objects animate and inanimate and feeling
personally insulted by the WB's fall lineup. I've been like a boat
set adrift with no direction, blaming everyone but myself for the
fact that I will die alone, poor, penniless and wearing someone
else's old clothes. That's not a bad thing, really. I mean, it beats
working. But having a reason to live is better.
And I found
mine during a late screening of Swimfan, sitting in a sea
of pimply and loud teenagers. I realized that all these kids are
frittering the best years of their lives away at terrible movies.
They need guidance, support and motivation, and the current school
system isn't giving them that. I've got some ideas about how to
get kids on the right path, so I'm becoming a guidance counselor.
I can't tell you how great it feels to have this sort of purpose
to my life; to know I will shape out future makes it all the sweeter.
See, I have
a lot of motivational shit to say that I think today's youth will
listen to, like "Shut the fuck up," and "You want
me to put my boot up your ass?" Or, "If you fail that
math test I'm going to come over to your house while you're sleeping
and gut you like a catfish." I figure it won't be long before
I'm making speeches to kids in gymnasiums and selling lots of books
on tape. If you're a principal, send me an e-mail and I'll tell
you my fees and the kind of shit I like in my dressing room. Also,
no elementary schools. I don't think those kids are ready for my
"Faces of Death"-style slide presentation.
Okay, now that
we got that settled let's get back to the movie.
takes place in one of those make-believe high schools that filmmakers
dream up because it's more convenient than a real place. It's filled
with somewhat attractive twenty-year-olds. There is no swarm of
marching band geeks smug with the knowledge that they will someday
inherit the earth. Of course, there is one lone "weird guy"
who turns out not to be so weird (ooo, bet you couldn't see that
coming). In this magical fairyland, the school has so much funding
it can afford to drug-test its swim team, swimmers can miraculously
shave five seconds off their 50-meter times in one week, and the
city newspaper gives more press to swim meets than to elections
Ben Cronin (Jesse
Bradford) is the superstar swimmer with the gorgeous, passive-but-horny,
girlfriend (Shiri Appleby). They are blissfully happy until that
witchy Erika Christensen comes along. She's psychotic, you see.
Since we're in the mystically, magical world of lazy moviemakers,
we accept that Christensen is irresistibly hot. Really, she's got
a fat, featureless face like a handmaid's reflection in the faraway
mirror of a Jan ver Meer painting. But, they're asking us to go
with it, and who are we to say no?
a fling with Christensen, and then feels awful about it. He really
only loves Appleby with all his teenage heart. Twenty minutes after
his indiscretion, he also catches up with the audience and realizes
that Christensen must have her dick in the peanut butter because
she's fucking nuts. She won't let go, and yadda yadda. You know
the rest. She goes bonkers, tries to kill Bradford's real girlfriend,
gets him thrown off the swim team right before the big Stanford
University scouts show up, and keeps popping around corners to ostensibly
scare him. It's all done as sloppy as a wet burrito, but the ending
is what boggles the mind most. I can't quite figure it out, because
you'd need butcher shears to cut through the layers of improbability,
impossibility and outright nonsense. It has something to do with
Christensen killing some police, Bradford's now invalid girlfriend
being moved from the hospital to his house, Bradford driving to
New York City and back in a matter of minutes, videotaping a confession
from Christensen, and being accused of trying to kill his girlfriend
when he has an entirely real and verifiable alibi. There's also
a big climactic fight where Bradford has to rescue his girlfriend
from the bottom of a pool where she is bound to, apparently, the
world's heaviest office chair.
makes more sense than the movie did, and I forgot another dozen
absurdities, I'm sure. It's all just gobbledygook piled on crap,
wrapped in an enigma and then shoved up someone's ass. If you knew
your story was a lousy rehash of old stories, wouldn't you at least
try to have it make sense?
Or scary. Scary
would be good too. But the vast majority of this movie is us watching
a pouty kid come to terms with infidelity with his creepy girl.
There is no building tension and no thrills until the last twenty
minutes. Those, though, are too unreal to jolt and sillier than
a pack of Girl Scouts jacked up on cotton candy and soda pop.
amazing is that this lousy story is done in such a lousy way. If
you're stealing from others, do like the Japanese and improve upon
it before selling it back. The characters are duller than a set
of TV-commercial steak knives a year later. Appleby is the uninterestingly
sweet girlfriend without a single unique quality except that she
sinks really well. Christenen is full-bore psycho, acting "intense"
and annoying right from the beginning. And Bradford just mopes along,
never having a reason to live. He's a lousy actor with a weird mouth
and the charisma of a trash truck. His character has a Sonic Youth
poster on his wall, but of course all we ever hear in the movie
is godawful rap-metal chosen to sell soundtracks. That's the way
the whole movie is: the makers are too fucking lazy to establish
Although I am
giving Swimfan One Finger for being such putrid bile,
I am indebted to it. It gave me a reason to live, and hope for today's
kids. You youngsters, if you want me to inspire you, just send me
a note and I'll kick you in the spiritual nuts until you're coughing
up the blood of success.
to tell Filthy Something?