Swingers (1996)

Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn’s most recent writing/acting collaboration, Couples Retreat, had a budget of around $60 million. Their first collaboration of this sort, Swingers, had a lowly budget of $200,000. However, despite Couples Retreat having 300 times more money to work with, it is my honest belief that Swingers is at least 300 times better than Couples Retreat.

Swingers is the quintessential low-budget, indie, cult-classic film. Mostly the movie focuses on aspiring actors and best friends Trent (Vaughn) and Mike (Favreau), who meet up with other friends, such as Rob (Ron Livingston), Sue (Patrick Van Horn), and Charles (Alex Desert) in L.A. As with most other films of this similar prototype, the plot is not necessarily the most important aspect. Nothing super exciting happens per se, but it is still such a fun watch because it feels actually real.

Throughout the movie, the viewer really feels a part of what’s going on with all of these lovable losers. Just like the plot itself, the humor is not forced either. It feels genuine, even if it is sometimes a little absurd. Vince Vaughn’s Trent easily provides the most laughs as the movie’s coolest and funniest character as he tries to get Mike, who’s still downtrodden after his breakup six months ago, back in the game. While Trent is the fun-loving guy everyone wants to relate to, Mike is the desperate yet lovable character that many others actually can relate to.

Mike’s attempts to find new girls in Las Vegas and L.A. lead to some situations so uncomfortable, you can’t help but laugh. In Vegas, we have the classic shot of Trent sitting on the couch in a towel with two girls while Mike is in the other room, checking to see if he has any messages from his ex. The look on Trent’s face is classic Vaughn and shows just how futile he feels his attempts to help his friend are.

Even when Mike gets good advice from Trent, like to double down on an 11, things still go awry. Then there are the times when Mike ignores Trent’s advice all together, and, well, things go even worse. For example, there is great debate at one point over how long Mike should wait before calling a girl whose number he got that night. After a comical back and forth, the group decides on either two or three days. Of course, Mike calls her late that same night and leaves message after message, each one increasingly awkward. The slapstick humor peaks during that scene as Mike slowly butchers all chance he had with the girl. What’s better, though, is his friends, days later, telling him that he should give her a call, not knowing how badly he already messed up the situation.

Mike really can’t win for losing. And his incessant complaining about his situation, countered by Trent’s often clever retorts make the movie so accessible. It’s really just two friends — one desperate and one not — hanging out, going out, and trying to find women. That’s a premise most people can understand if not associate with it.

The friendship between Mike and Trent and their hanging out with the rest of the group drive the movie. By making the ordinary, day-by-day happenings among friends so relatable and funny to watch, Swingers becomes a great movie.

Mike and Rob playing golf is a great example of making the normal funny. They both struggle to get the ball in the hole, but then agree that they both got eights. Along with all of the other below-average golfers out there, I’ve been there before, but it’s still funny to see it in a movie.

Then, there is the scene of Trent and Sue playing a hockey video game. When Trent scores, they argue about if the goal was legitimate or not, leading to Trent putting on the instant replay, which does not please Sue in the slightest and leads to a friendly little fight.

I’d say most people can relate to at least a few scenes. And with all of the classic lines sprinkled in, it’s a movie most people can enjoy if not quote it non-stop. People quote lines from Swingers without even knowing they’re from Swingers. First and foremost, there is the most famous line: “you’re so money and you don’t even know it!” uttered by Trent in one of this thousands of pep-talks for Mike. Though it is often recognized as coming from Swingers, people who have never even seen the movie still say it.

A more subtle but oft-quoted line is Charles’ repeatedly saying “this place is dead anyways” when the group decides to leave a bar or party. Whether people know it or not, they’re quoting Charles when they say this on the way out of a party. Like the characters themselves, the quotes aren’t over the top. They’re very much in the vernacular and worth repeating.

Swingers, as a whole, doesn’t take itself too seriously. It doesn’t try to push the envelope and be Entourage; it’s too real-life for that. It’s just a movie about friends going out and trying to have a good time, or trying to help Mike have a good time.

The “plot” if you want to call it that, does come full circle in the end with Mike deciding to talk on the phone with a new girl he met, Lorraine (Heather Graham), instead of his ex-girlfriend who finally called. But it is never really about the plot; it is about the friendship between all of the guys; it is about the chase for women; it is about normal life for struggling actors; and it is about the awkwardness and humor in real life. Most importantly, though, it is about the final scene which should leave you laughing, or at least smiling all throughout the credits.

Baby, this movie is so money, and it doesn’t even know it!