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Swingers
Miramax Collector's Series

review by Zach B.

 

 

Rating: R (For Language Throughout)

Running Time: 96 minutes

Starring: Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Ron Livingston, Patrick Van Horn, Alex Desert and Heather Graham

Written by: Jon Favreau

Directed by: Doug Liman

 

Studio: Disney

Retail Price: $19.99

Features: Audio Commentary with Director Doug Liman and Editor Stephen Mirrione, Illustrated Action Commentary with Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn, "Making It In Hollywood" Documentary, The Cutting Room Floor, "Swingblade" Short Film, "Swingers" Mania Gallery, Cast & Crew, Sneak Peeks

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections (14 Scenes)

Released: September 24th, 2002

 

 

Over the years, a lot of independent films have been made, and many of those did pave new ways and break new ground in storytelling and how films were made. But I think only a select few REALLY broke new ground, and those are the best and the most remembered. No, just because you do something on a cheap budget or create some amazing shot in a little movie doesn't mean you've changed the world. But when it comes to the world of indie flicks, "Swingers" ranks as one of my top three favorites - and one of the top three that I think really paved new ways, broke new ground and really became part of American culture.

The film follows Mike Peters (Jon Favreau), a guy trying to make it in Los Angeles after moving from New York six months ago. Unfortunately, Mike is bummed out that he left his longtime girlfriend behind in New York, and it does take its toll on him. However, his trendy friends, especially his good pal Trent (Vince Vaughn), try to get Mike back into the dating circuit and have a social life and make him forget about the past. And how do they do this? Why, going to all the trendy hip night spots nearly all Los Angelinos love!

Yet there's something so true to "Swingers." It's definently a film that will hold up probably forever, and isn't just a one shot kind of deal as I think some people tend to characterize the movie as. While the film has given quite a boost in breakthroughs to Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, director Doug Liman and Heather Graham to an extent, it's also added such terms like "beautiful babies" to our mindsets and given us an intriguing, fun look at west coast night life.

Still, despite all the fun, at the heart of the movie is really a story about relationships that does strike a chord. Some of you probably know that elements of the film are autobiographical to Jon Favreau, and certain scenes with him in it, that does show. It's not only about finding happiness in love and how certain approaches work better than others for different people, but rather, I thought the film was more about friendship, particularly Trent and Mike's. While I really did enjoy and took stuff out of the love elements, which are more or less flawlessly executed and gives viewers much to think about after the film is over, there's just such strength in how Mike and Trent's own friendship counteracts one another, the events of the movie and how much meaning it has.

Jon Favreau, who of course also wrote the script, really tones this movie with a lot of laughs and a lot of heart, plus plenty of great moments, quirky characters and strong dialogue. Favreau's acting chops are quite good here too, balancing the right amount of heartbreak and sense of positivity, even if there is some measure of negativity thrown into his character. His mannerisms and expressions are particularly strong, not to mention the natural and easy flowing chemistry he shares with Vince Vaughn. Vaughn is quick witted and charming here too. Other strong supporting performances come from Heather Graham, Ron Livingston and Alex Desert.

Some of you may also know Doug Liman shot this movie for very cheap, but thanks to his lush visual look and efficient shooting style, you'd probably never know it. Liman's directing style is very impressive and really helps add flair to the film, and it's just solid evidence that he started out strong and he will be a stronger filmmaker as time goes on, as shown in "Go" and more recently, "The Bourne Identity." The film also sports some great editing, and when it all adds up, "Swingers" is definently one unique modern classic that will continue to have flavor ages from now, and so many films that aspire to be it will never match it's wondrous and downright amazing execution. Well written, great themes, awesome acting and excellent directing really make "Swingers" one of a kind.

 

Finally getting the anamorphic widescreen treatment (in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1), this transfer of "Swingers" is certainly a major improvement over the last DVD release, though it still has its own flaws. Granted this is a low budget indie flick, grain runs rampant throughout, which might be distracting to some. Blemishes and pieces of dirt poke around here and there, not to mention some very slight edge enhancement, but I think that may actually be more of a framing issue.

The transfer also appears to be slightly faded, and some noise can be noticed. But overall, this transfer really shines in its excellent fleshtones and wildly submersive color saturation. Colors are not only downright bold, but they're properly fitting. Las Vegas, with all its glowing colors and sparkles looks wonderful, not to mention roadways and the bleakness of Mike's apartment. In all, the transfer is not perfect, but this is probably the best we'll ever see the film in, so enjoy.

 

Just like last time, we get an English Dolby Surround track. It's too bad, because I still think the film could have used and certainly deserved a full blown 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. Nonetheless, despite the limitations, this track does shine nicely. Like most Dolby Surround tracks, it's very straightforward and things tend to blend together more easily. There is some fine imaging from time to time, but that lovable music, clear cut dialogue and strong sound effects (such as in the casino with people talking and slots going off) basically come together so you hear it all in one lump. Nothing gets cluttered so you hear everything as it should, but it doesn't exactly fully immerse a viewer. It's also a bit low. Still, it's fitting for the film... I'm just slightly disappointed at the lack of 5.1. Not a big deal, I guess. Also included is a French Dolby track plus English subtitles and English closed captions. Though unlike the first release, there are no Spanish subtitles for whatever reason.

 

Woo! This is where the DVD certainly blows the older edition out of the water. "Swingers" always deserved the supplementary treatment, and we finally get it in this spankin' brand new Miramax Collector's Series edition which gives you a strong glimpse at what it took to make this indie triumph. Most notable are two commentaries. The first, an Audio Commentary with Director Doug Liman and Editor Stephen Mirrione, is quite good. Brown University graduate Liman and Mirrione are quite lively in their discussion, and offer a very interesting though quite technical commentary on what it took to make "Swingers." Their friendly approach works quite well, but their fine attention to detail is very articulate and fascinating in how they did what they did with such a small budget. I definently noticed things I never noticed in the film before while listening to their commentary. And yes, while it is technical, the two also discuss the movie's thematic approach and characters. If you choose to listen to this track, you're also in for the ride to hear a lot of entertaining stories that happened during the filming. It works fine with the film and a lot of ground is covered, so this makes for a strong commentary, especially for fans of the movie.

The second, an Illustrated Action Commentary with Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn, can also be done with just the audio. "Action illustrated" has the actors drawing and pointing out stuff that appear on the screen during the movie here and there, which can be fun. Still, a commentary is a commentary and what really matters is what these guys say. The two buddies just start going off right away, discussing those involved in the production, how certain elements were accomplished, a bunch of cool production stories, location discussions and their own facts and life experience. This definently has insight and a good sense of humor, but overall, I found most of it dry. It's a strong commentary and gives you what you probably want to hear, but I think die-hard fans of the film will get the most out of it. Personally, I could have gone with a commentary with the two talking with Liman as well.

Making It In Hollywood is an original documentary broken up into four parts: "Art Imitates Life: Writing the Story," "Life Creates Art: Getting 'Swingers' Made," "Life Imitates Art: 'Swingers' Culture" and "Art Creates Life: Life after 'Swingers.'" Definently creative and fitting titles for this documentary, and even better, all of it is presented in anamorphic widescreen! Complete with stills and clips from the movie, assorted interviews with star and writer Jon Favreau, director Doug Liman, Vince Vaughn, Steve Mirrione, Ron Livingston and a few more talk about what "Swingers" really is. I simply cannot go into every detail about this feature, but it does rank as one of the best DVD documentaries I've ever had the pleasure of watching. Everything that "Swingers" stands for, is about and what happened after its success is explored and discussed here in fine detail. I personally loved the "Swingers" culture bits, but I found it quite interesting in how Jon Favreau shaped his story to be fiction, but paralleled his own personal love life. There's certainly cool stuff on how the movie was made and how it was shot, not to mention how the film's success changed those involved. Quite simply, this documentary alone makes the DVD worth buying, so whatever you do, don't miss it.

The Cutting Room Floor starts off with a nice text introduction to give some insight on to how films are edited. Five scenes ("Speakeasy Kinda Thing," "The Hockey Game," "The Kiss," "Vegas Girls Trailer" and "Drunken Diners") are culled from the movie's dailies. The quality is a bit rough, but certainly watchable and quite entertaining. I would have enjoyed to hear Mirrione and Liman's comments (the box makes mention of an introduction of Liman, a golfing scene and an outtakes reel, but I could not find those), but this certainly does satisfy.

Swingers Mania Gallery is a few promotional stills that deal with the movie, while Cast & Crew gives brief filmographies for those individuals listed. Though quite amusing is the Swingblade "short film." Presented in full frame and lasting about three and a half minutes, this acts as a faux trailer. As some of you may recall, Miramax also had a hit on their hands with Billy Bob Thornton's breakthrough in "Swing Blade" around the same time "Swingers" was gaining a name for itself. For fans of "Swingers" and or "Swing Blade" (thankfully I'm a fan of both), I just ate this up. It's really, really hilarious and perfectly captures what each film was about in such a strong, deadpan manner.

But you better hold on to your older DVD releases folks, absent from this release (but not the last one) is the film's theatrical trailer. And I know how much you love trailers!

 

Certainly a major improvement over the four year old release, I'm quite happy Disney decided to revisit this indie favorite that helped in the breakthroughs of so many known talents of today. With a fine array of supplements, improved picture quality over the last release and good sound, this is certainly worth picking up if you're a fan of the movie or love independent cinema, and the surprisingly low retail price doesn't hurt too.