Swim Fan

A Film Review By Jason L. King

Starring: Rated PG-13 for language, violence, and some sexual action in a pool
Directed By: John Polson
Rated: Jesse Bradford, Erica Christensen, Shirri Appleby, Dan Hedaya

Final Grade:

What is it about adultery (that teens do in this film) that’s so fascinating? Look at American cinema, and one will find many films that cover the subject, including Fatal Attraction, The Good Girl, Indecent Proposal, and Unfaithful, although to be fair, only one of those films didn’t have Adrian Lyne behind its cameras. Adultery manages to lurk its way (however obscure) into just about every other film and television show on the market, from Office Space’s “You slept with Bill Lumberg?” to the burning question on every Friends show “Who’s going to sleep with who tonight?” Let’s face it…Americans are pretty damned anal about sex (no pun intended) and feel the need to discuss it twenty four seven. Fine by me, but at least make the conversation enlightening, or at the very least, plausible. Swimfan tries this for awhile, and then tries to be a thriller, and never really gets anywhere. Kind of like romance.

Bradford stars as Ben Cronin, a heck of a swimmer, who after a rough run in with drugs is finally getting his life back on track. The big meet is a week away, his girlfriend thinks he’s the coolest and proves so by having sex with him during the opening title sequence, and his life is swell. Then Madison comes to town, they’re sweet on each other, and before long they have sex on the deep end of the school pool. Thing is, she’ll only go the distance if he says he loves her, so of course he says it, causing her to obsess over him. When he breaks it off, she goes crazy, willing to do everything to win him back, or let him die trying.

This film isn’t really terrible, but to say its deserving would be doing it a disservice. The first half is kind of fun for awhile, fore even though one can easily see where it’s going, it’s amusing. Polson, directing his first studio film, has nice moment with the camera, and creates an excellent tinted look to the film. As the characters steadily fall from grace, the look darkens along with them, and while the effect is subtle, it complements the film nicely. Erica Christensen, having to work with a character that is hardly there, is wonderful in the role. She goes the extra mile by suggesting depths with the look of an eye that go beyond anything the writers could come up with, and if this had been a real film, she could have been gold. The camera loves her and she manages to surface from this film untouched, which is surprising because Banger Sisters gives her more to work with and she comes off much weaker. Hmm.

Despite these few strengths, the film manages to emerge after the meager eighty minute run time bruised, broken, and battered. After the slight but engaging first half, the film slips off the deep end in part two and becomes ludicrous. Without giving any specifics away, how is that Ben Cronin is able to swim in the pool and not notice a very noticeable, bleeding object that she placed there? How is that Madison has unlimited access to every area that Ben goes into or could possibly be? And also, how is it that every character knows precisely at every moment in the film where everyone else is? I’m leaving out the thriller elements to avoid ruining the film for those who intend on seeing it (against my command) so I’ll just say that not a single action in the second half has a ring of truth or plausibility attached to it. Every cliché is here, complimented by idiot characters enforcing them.

Also, did I mention these characters were idiots? Cronin has a girlfriend who thinks he is the world and cheats on her for very fuzzy reasons (although Madison is sexy enough to make me want to cheat on my imaginary girlfriend). As far as we know, he only has sex with Madison because she’s hot…surely he doesn’t do this to all hot girls whom he encounters. His girlfriend is an idiot too, for accepting him back despite his cheatin’ heart (when will women ever learn?), as well as just about every other minor character in the film. How is that not a single person believes Ben is telling the truth about whatever encounters he may be facing when there’s no logical reason to think that he even did anything at all? These questions torment the film like the plague.

Could this have worked? Yes, by cutting away the selling point of the story…the “Fatal Attraction for teens in swim suits” pitch. There are a few moments in the first half where we get glimpses of Madison that suggest better, more interesting routes for this story to go…why not make a film that truly depicts what an obsessed “swimfan” might really go through, instead of throwing all the silly stuff at us? Why have the film end abruptly when all parties get what’s coming to them, and no one’s angry with anyone else? The premise gives the screenwriter and director ample opportunities that are unfortunately never taken. These roads aren’t traveled because the filmmakers see the path that lies to a big audience and lots of bookings at the big cineplexs, while failing to realize that these paths are too well worn and simply don’t work.

Swimfan isn’t the worst thing out there right now, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy myself a little bit watching it. However, the potential for something more, something better was sadly wasted upon us in the pursuit of an accessible story than any idiot could understand. The film shoots itself repeatedly through the foot, but not enough to kill itself completely. I’m not recommending Swimfan, but you could do worse.

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