Swingers DVD Review

Cover Art & Packaging: 10/10
Pumping up some ultra idea about what the title reflects rather than the essence of the film is basically the theme of this cover. The original cover of the first edition DVD did more justice to the often tongue in check attitude of the story. Vince Vaughn is a vital part of the pizzazz of this ensemble and the original cover uses that charisma and more colorful image to represent the film. I’m not saying I don’t like the cover of the special edition, I love it. I’m just saying that it lends more to the title of the movie than the story even does. Heather Graham plays an important role, but let’s be honest, she is not third billing as this new cover suggests. Being a sucker for a flashy cover, I like the variety, but I do prefer the original cover concept.

Extras & Features: 10/10

  • Filmmaker’s Audio Commentary – I’m a huge fan of commentaries. The more you know about this film the more you realize what an accomplishment it really is. Details beyond the technical and economical limitations of a lower budget film cover every area of production from conception to the finished film. This director is a visionary, a true artist. He is a credit to ambitious, creative people in Hollywood without the “system” brainwashing. Listen to his love of filmmaking and affection for Swingers and it adds a whole new dimension to the experience of this 90’s classic.
  • Illustrated Action Commentary with Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn – What a treat. Between their passion for the project and their real life friendship getting their perspective on the film is a thrilling bonus. The Action Commentary consists of them highlighting parts of the scene with a pen, marking, literally on the movie to point out things they are talking about. They have fun with it at times and basically doodle a bit, but mostly they point out interesting visuals, props, etc. They talk about everything from the technical aspects to personal influences on the film. It’s an amazing extra for the price of this DVD. I’m impressed!
  • “Making It In Hollywood” – Original Documentary – Favreau’s reasons for writing the story, the inspiration for characters, backdrops, production, direction and everything else. How this “lower budget” film became a phenomenon of the 90’s among the post X generation. A throw back to old fashioned filmmaking with a sense of invention and passion that is seldom found in the bowels of Hollywood’s movie making beast. Interviews with all the key players including cast and crew. You get the friends behind the story (including Vaughn, Livingston and Van Horn), and the story behind the story, Favreau’s inspiration for this comedy about a guy getting through a rough spot in his life. Based loosely on Favreau’s own experiences. I am always thrilled to hear from the people behind the production. The creative process of a film is so extensive and so intriguing, to offer so many aspects and such complete background information about the making of a film classic is a real gift to those of us who look forward to the extras as much as the films when they hit DVD. The intimacy of this movie is reflected in this documentary and the struggles they went through to get the film made. Looping from a video tape, working out of a garage, filming in open and running bars, parties and local businesses are all wonderful back bits about Swingers that add to its charm and personality.
  • Scenes cut from the movie post production. –  You be the judge whether you think they should have been left in or not. I am usually a proponent of putting cut scenes back into a DVD version of a film, but this time around I think the director and editor made all the right choices when they trimmed these bits of excess.
  • Director’s Introduction
  • Golfing
  • The Kiss
  • Drunken Diners
  • Outtakes Reel Swingblade Short Film

The Movie: 10/10
A perfect combination of elements would be a good way to describe Swingers. All the right puzzle pieces in the right place at the right time and a truck load of talent to back it all up. Jon Favreau wrote a story about a guy getting over a relationship and getting on with his life. What’s so special about that? Well, let me tell you. Favreau wrote from his own life with a twist and turn here and there to filter out the parts that can muddy up a classic human tale. His observational skills hone in on details of behavior that we all find sooooo familiar it makes this film the amazing experience that it is.

“Mike” is recently out of a long term relationship, newly moved to L.A. to pursue a career as a comedian and is surrounded by a group of friends who have the ambition of a group of teenage boys on the hunt for “honeys”. The intricate relationships and surprisingly layered personalities suck you in to the point of basically hanging on their every word. I found myself waiting to see who would say what next, not at all bothered by actions, situations, motivations, conflicts and resolutions, but pure and simple, waiting for the next interesting conversation or monologue around the corner. That is the beauty of Favreau’s writing. His ability to build whole scenes around an idea or a very real dynamic between friends.

The music and backdrops of a Swinging night life in L.A. and Vegas in the 90’s combined with the hip clothes, catch phrases and amazing directing make a visual feast to compliment the story and characters. Using real bars that could not be closed for filming (so they were packed with regular customers), live parties (again, real guests mingling at Hollywood parties) and kamikaze lighting in every situation, this director held fast to the look of this film to create a specific style. The style wavers a bit from scene to scene, but only enough to give each part of the story it’s own reality, much like life, every room, house, store, place of business we go to is not lighted the same or has the same visual stimulation.

Noticeably you see a distinct different style for the drive home from Vegas verses the look of a scene of Favreau’s character at his lowest moment, alone in his apartment. Though the look of each scene can be attributed often to lack of funds and creative use of a limited budget, Liman understands how to combine reality, sets, equipment, actors, scripts and production with the world he is creating for characters and the world they live in.

A close quarters scene in a very very small trailer is one of my favorites in the movie. I’ve been in those tin boxes and the way it was filmed did nothing to disguise the feel and ambience (if trailers have ambience) of that kind of setting. You can picture the cast and crew crammed into this tiny space, no walls cut out for wide shots, just close ups and tight takes of the lovely couch parts of the scene. Notice, the couch is the width of the trailer.. nice and cozy!

I love this film. Vaughn is a magnet and Favreau had me from the first time I saw Made, another Favreau project. For a great evening of rentals.. go for a Favreau/Vaughn marathon, it’s well worth it.

Value: 10/10
Fantastic is all I can say about the value on this DVD. Why you can get this baby for less than $14 is beyond me, but I love it!!! I can’t complain about any DVD that sports such a reasonable price, let along one with a lot excellent extras, commentaries and amazing film to boot.

Over All: 10/10
There are so many laughs, so many amazing performances and so much life cursing through the veins of Swingers it’s a must own DVD to have on those blah weekend afternoons. I know I’ll watch it over and over.

With an almost indie look this feature film is a real gift in an age of over blow budgets and egos in the movie industry. Something like Swingers came along in the midst of so much block buster hype it’s a real treasure of late 20th century filmmaking.

Get this DVD, it’s a wonderful story, great extras, perfect value.. I think I’m drooling.

Overall Score 10/10