[box cover]

Swimfan

Call it a new sub-genre. After all, any script that tries to create situational tension from a series of stock characters has long been referred to as a "potboiler." Now, with a the pop-cultural awareness of Adrian Lyne's 1987 Fatal Attraction safely assured, we have years of knockoffs to look forward to — "bunny-boilers," more or less. In Swimfan (2002), our hapless chump is high school swimming star Ben Cronin (Jesse Bradford), a New Jersey teen who's being scouted by Stanford University. Loyal girlfriend Amy (Shiri Appleby) is upset that her beau may go to college 3,000 miles away, but she's determined to be supportive. And with a sweet girlfriend like that, what young man would allow himself to be steered wrong? Alas, the rules of the bunny-boiler dictate the arrival of a blonde vamp, here Madison Bell (Erika Christensen), who has just relocated to New Jersey from a southern state and immediately locks on to Ben. He's flattered by her attentions, intrigued by her mysterious charm, and interested in getting to know more about her — all of which leads to a late-night shagging in the local pool's deep end and an increasingly volitile tramp who sends Ben pestering e-mails, instant messages, and semi-naked photos of herself, making it clear that he is now to be her boyfriend... or pay the consequences. About as derivative as films come nowadays, it's actually not that hard to like Swimfan. It starts out pleasant enough, with the charming Jesse Bradford establishing himself as a good student and athlete who dotes on his mother and is in love with his cute, if bland, girlfriend. And Erika Christensen — who likely has far more talent than this movie requires — oozes voluptuous sex appeal and underplays her descent into obsessive psychosis (director John Polson cleverly utilizes some asyncronous jump-cuts to suggest the shattered psyche within). But after the illicit sex, Swimfan is a by-the-numbers affair, never really degenerating into enough of a pulpy mess to deserve outright derision, but also never coming up with enough surprises in the script to make it genuinely tense or interesting. The characters are too generic to allow for any real texture, and the supporting folks are are straight out of Central Casting High. To do more, Swimfan needed to take more risks, perhaps playing against its clean-scrubbed teen cast and plunging straight into homicidal Grade-A cinematic cheddar. After all, plenty of folks get killed in the movie before it's all over — it's just a shame that they aren't murdered in more interesting ways. Fox's DVD release of Swimfan features a clean anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1. Features include a commentary with director John Polson, 10 deleted scenes with commentary, and the featurette "The Girlfriend from Hell" (10 min.). Keep-case.
—JJB



Back to Quick Reviews Index: [A-F] [G-L] [M-R] [S-Z]

Back to Main Page