Film Reviews

Love in the Time of Retro

The made-on-a-shoestring male bonding comedy Swingers has become a darling of the film festival circuit thanks to the cinematic equivalent of good cocktail chatter: smart, funny lines delivered by a handful of stylish, good-looking (but not overpoweringly so) young hipsters whose slick, trendy appearances mask vulnerable hearts.

Jon Favreau, the film's screenwriter, plays Mike, a struggling actor from New York who ventured west to pursue his dream in Hollywood. But Mike left behind the love of his life, and now spends most of his time moping around his apartment or obsessively checking his answering machine to see if his ex-girlfriend has called.

Mike's friends, a low-rent Brat Pack composed of fellow aspiring celluloid heroes Trent (scene-stealing Vince Vaughn), Rob (Ron Livingston), Sue (Patrick Van Horn), and Charles (Alex Desert), do their best to buoy Mike's spirits and get him back in the game. They commiserate with him, offer unsolicited advice on critical dating protocol (such as how many days to wait after scoring a phone number before making the first call), shore up his confidence by continually reassuring him how "money" (slang for cool) he is, and cajole Mike into joining them for martini-drenched nights on L.A.'s booming club circuit.

From the white pseudo-leather banquettes and cork walls of the Dresden Room to the dark recesses of the Three of Clubs to the umbrella-drink ersatz Polynesia of the Lava Lounge to the tacky splendor of Vegas, Trent and company escort their heartsick comrade on a swirl of parties and club hopping. Along the way Vaughn (who has landed a major role in Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park sequel) builds a case for himself as a star in the making, turning Trent's pick-up moves and late-night bull sessions into a comic tour de force. His cocksure Lothario glides through the L.A. nightlife netherworld as smoothly and effortlessly as Michael Jordan cuts through an opponent's second team.

Swingers feels like a labor of love, owing both to the autobiographical details of Favreau's writing and the lived-in performances of its close-knit cast. These guys aren't just playing buddies; this is, with a few embellishments and a smidgen of artistic license, their real-life story. Sure it's self-indulgent, but Swingers makes up for it with the cast's infectious camaraderie. Just because you can see through these guys' attitudinal posturing and phony bravado does not detract from their charm. They know that you know it's all an act. You like these witty, goofy guys instantly; Swingers lets you hang with them while they make their rounds.

Tigertail Productions opens its second annual New Vision Florida/ Brazil festival on Friday, November 8, with the world premiere of The Demons' Meeting, the newest offering from acclaimed Brazilian director A.S. Cecilio Neto. In the film, which because of its newness I have not had a chance to review, three young boys (the demons of the title) use their hyperactive imaginations to keep the world at bay until a death forces them to confront reality and begin to grow up.

Neto has exhibited past productions at numerous worldwide film festivals from Rotterdam to Havana; his last picture, Happiness Is, copped best film honors in 1995 at Brazil's Gramado festival. The 41-year-old filmmaker will be on hand to discuss his work and the recent resurgence of the Brazilian film industry, so vibrant and exploding with promise in the late Seventies and early Eighties but so moribund as the Nineties dawned.

As a result of cuts in government spending on the arts from 1990 through 1992, nary a single full-length feature film was produced in the country that gave the world Carmen Miranda and Dona Flor. But a three-year-old law offering incentives for private investment in the arts has sparked a flurry of moviemaking activity; Neto, one of the Brazilian industry's most promising young filmmakers, could be poised to ride the new wave to an international breakout.

The Demons' Meeting screens Friday through Sunday, November 8-10, at the Bill Cosford Cinema at the University of Miami (off Campo Sano Drive), Coral Gables. For showtimes and ticket prices call 284-4861.

Written by Jon Favreau; directed by Doug Liman; with Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Ron Livingston, Patrick Van Horn, Alex Desert, and Heather Graham.

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Todd Anthony
Contact: Todd Anthony