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Film / Swingers

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So Fuckin' Money!

Swingers is a 1996 comedy-drama film directed by Doug Liman, starring Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, and Ron Livingston as three young actors living in Los Angeles in the mid-90s, generally hanging around and struggling to get their careers and personal lives going, all set against the backdrop of the brief swing music revival trend of the era.

Favreau plays Mike, an aspiring comic from New York who has moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of a career after being dumped by his longtime girlfriend at home and has been in a romantic slump ever since he arrived, and Vaughn is Trent, his cocky, charismatic, and occasionally obnoxious party animal of a best friend. Also part of their circle are Rob (Livingston), an aspiring actor having trouble finding a gig better than dressing as a cartoon character at Disneyland, Sue (Patrick Van Horn), whose name was inspired by his parents' love of the Johnny Cash song, and Charles (Alex Desert).

The film begins with Trent persuading Mikey to take a road trip to Las Vegas, during which he quickly loses most of his rent money for the month in a futile attempt to impress a woman; Trent is more successful and manages to pick up a cocktail waitress working at the casino. After the pair returns to L.A., more adventures in the same vein follow, with Mike and friends going out to various clubs and parties around L.A. and trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to be cool and meet women. Eventually, things start to turn around for Mike romantically, if not professionally.

The movie is considered a Cult Classic by many and is much-loved for its likable characters and extremely quotable screenplay. It was the first major success for Favreau, Vaughn and Liman and sent them on to the successful careers they continue to enjoy today.

This film provides examples of:

  • Beard of Sorrow: Mike grows one at one point.
  • Berserk Button: Sue pulls a gun on a group of guys after one of them calls him a bitch.
  • Boy Meets Girl: Realistically and amusingly subverted; Mike meets several possible love interests early in the movie, but manages to screw things up with each of them thanks to his mopey state of mind and lack of dating experience.
  • Break Up to Make Up: Mike gets over his ex-girlfriend just in time to effectively reject her when it seems she might he want to get back together.
  • The Casino: In one of the movie's first scenes.
  • Catchphrase: Describing something good as "money" is the catchphrase of the entire group.
  • The Charmer: Trent, to the annoyance of Mike.
  • Classically-Trained Extra: Rob is a trained Shakespearean actor but fails to even land a job playing Goofy at Disneyland.
  • Comically Small Bribe: As part of his deliberately cheesy pick-up routine, Trent promises the cocktail waitress a shiny 50 cent piece if she brings their drinks quickly.
  • Covers Always Lie: Actress Heather Graham is featured on the cover of the DVD, implying that she is one of the main characters in the film. In reality she only appears in a single scene.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Mike.
  • Double-Meaning Title: "Swingers" refers both to the swing revival social scene that the characters are a part of as well as their promiscuous lifestyle.
  • Embarrassing Voicemail: Mike leaves various messages on a woman's machine, and repeatedly corrects himself by leaving new messages. She eventually answers the phone and tells him to stop calling.
  • Funny Answering Machine: Inverted: it's not the answering machine message itself that's funny, it's the series of embarrassing messages Mike leaves in response to it that is.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Sue, in reference to the Johnny Cash song "Boy Named Sue."
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Deconstructed with Sue. He frequently loses his temper with the others, who yell right back at him rather than cowering; the one time he threatens violence, by pulling a gun after exchanging words with some wannabe thugs in a parking lot, his friends immediately and realistically call him out for acting like an idiot.
    Mike: You asshole! Didn't you see Boyz n the Hood? One of us is going to get shot now.
  • Handsome Lech: Trent.
  • Homage Shot: Tons, to various movies beloved of the filmmakers.
    • One shot, of the guys sitting around the kitchen table talking about movies in their apartment, is a direct homage to Reservoir Dogs, followed by another homage as they walk out to their cars in slow motion.
    • The guys entering a club through the kitchen entrance is an homage to a similar scene in GoodFellas.
  • Irrevocable Message: Mike leaves a series of increasingly embarrassing messages on the machine of a girl he's just met.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Trent, who's an obnoxious womanizer, but genuinely does care about his friends and tries to snap Mike out of his depressive funk.
  • Love Hurts: One of the movie's major themes.
  • Minor Flaw, Major Breakup:
    Mike: Hi, how are you ladies doing this evening?
    Girl at Party: What do you drive?
    Mike: A Cavalier. (as she turns away and ignores him) It's's a red Cavalier...
  • Odd Couple: Mike and Trent.
  • Odd Friendship: Mike finds Trent obnoxious and Trent finds Mike mopey and depressing, but they are close friends.
  • One-Word Title
  • On the Rebound: Mike is told that his ex's new relationship won't last, as it's just a rebound. Mike points out his relationship with her also started as a rebound.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Trent and Mike have similar backgrounds and personal and career goals, but very different approaches to life; neither is right all the time and the two tend to pull each other away from their own respective worst tendencies.
  • Romantic Wingman: Mike's friends attempt to play this role for him with varying degrees of success.
  • Sensei for Scoundrels: Trent employs some of this with Mike.
  • Shout-Out: As with the homages listed above, there are quite a few, to Jaws, The Godfather, American Graffiti, and Rain Man, among other movies, not to mention nods to Johnny Cash, NHLPA '93 for the Sega Genesis, and You Bet Your Life. Trent calling Mike "the guy behind the guy behind the guy" at a casino is an obscure reference to David Mamet's Things Change.
  • Snooty Sports: Golf's inherent snootiness is used to establish the characters' everyman status. They are shown playing golf for recreation... but the course they play at is patchy and has dead grass, and they are shown to be bad not just at the sport but even trying to keep count of high their score is.
  • The Oner: A homage to The Oner in GoodFellas.
  • Viva Las Vegas!: Or as Trent puts it, 'Vegas, baby! Vegas!'
  • You Need to Get Laid: What Trent thinks Mike needs to get over his breakup with his ex.