Swingers could so easily have been a disaster. Big on talk, small on action, and with a budget that barely nudges that for a pop video (a tiny $250,000), it wouldn't have needed too much inexperience to make something pretentious or plodding. But thankfully director Doug Liman and writer/star Jon Favreau never put a foot wrong. "Write about what you know," holds the mantra, and these chaps have obviously been listening, spinning off a debut feature centred on young blokes sitting around in Hollywood coffee shops chewing the cud and mulling over making it in showbiz: in other words, themselves possibly three years back. Favreau's quick-paced script tells a witty tale about normal guys, what they get up to when girls aren't around, and the neuroses lurking behind their bravado. Men'll squirm in their seats, while their girlfriends sit smug as cats and beam mile-wide grins.
Swingers may understandably lack the polish of bigger, glossier productions, but its low-scale, low-budget feel won't hinder your enjoyment. Would Swingers have had the same charm if it had eaten up another $5 million? I doubt it. Liman and his small crew often as not shot the film illegally - - in the scene when Mike and Trent head out from Las Vegas, the sirens wailing in the background belong to genuine cops after Liman's filming permit. Likewise, all of the bar and club scenes - - the haunts for Trent's all-important babe-hunting - - were shot during normal opening hours, lending the piece an authenticity seldom seen on the silver screen. The action and conversation also swing merrily along to the coolest of cool soundtracks.
But it's the performances from the two leads, Favreau and Vaughn, that lend the film its jump. Best buds in real life, they gel excellently - - Favreau near-Allenesque as love-sick neurotic Mike; Vaughn confident and charming as plucky Trent. The more exuberant Vaughn (sexy and cool) comes close to utterly stealing the show, aided by a script that's clever and bubbles with an acute knack of understanding what men are like. (His Spielbergness signed him up for The Lost World after seeing this). ""I don't want you to be like the guy in the PG-13 movie, where everyone hopes it's going to happen"," he says. ""I want you to be like the guy in the rated R movie"."
Low-budget it may be, but Swingers is a funny, observant little feature that exudes so much attitude and panache it has to be seen on the big screen. Saturday night fun can also come in tiny packages.