Way back when I saw a trailer for Swingers (1996) couldn’t figure out when it was set. The characters all dressed in 50’s clothing and drove classic cars, but had the Club. I read a review and learned that the movie was about a Los Angeles sub-culture where people dress like they did in the 50’s. It sounded interesting, but it took me 11 years to finally see the movie.
Turns out that the 50’s fashion has little to do with the plot. It’s more of a visual shoutout to the Rat Pack in much the same way this movie pays tribute to Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. The plot of Swingers is very similar to Sideways in many ways, albeit 10 years earlier and the characters are 10 years younger (without looking at IMDB guess the age difference between Jon Favreau and Paul Giamatti).
The story is about Mike (Jon Favreau) a young man who broke up with his girlfriend in order to move to Los Angeles to try his hand at acting. Despite this he his hung up on his ex and spends a lot of his time moping and hoping she’ll call. Mike’s friend Trent (Vince Vaughn) continually tries to help out Mike by getting him to hook up with another woman. Trent is a loudmouth jerk but turns out to really care about Mike when it counts. As they go to bars and parties and smoothly move about Los Angeles, hilarity ensues. The plot of this movie doesn’t really count. It’s all about atmosphere, witty dialog, and set pieces. Eventually Mike does find love with Heather Graham at a swing dance, and his ex predictably calls the next day, but none of that matters. As I said above, plot doesn’t count, and the movie is better when you don’t think about it. Luckily there’s enough clever stuff going on that you don’t have to.
This movie makes me nostalgic for the nostalgia of the mid-1990’s. The liner notes on the DVD case credit the movie with starting the Swing Revival, although I think it already existed. Better yet, it’s stunning to watch a movie set in Los Angeles 11 years ago with nary a sight of an SUV nor a cellphone. They did have those things back then although we were still calling them Jeeps and mobile phones. That’s a time period I could go back to.