FILM OF THE WEEK: Swingers
Tuesday June 3, BBC One, 11:45pm
Remember the time when Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn were the coolest two guys in film? If not, nobody can blame you – they were the coolest two guys in film for exactly one movie, before both embarked on careers punctuated with stinkers like Couples Retreat and The Internship. But for one magical moment in 1996, they came together with director Doug Liman (who would go on to helm The Bourne Identity and current Tom Cruise-starring sci-fi Edge of Tomorrow) to make marvelous indie-hit Swingers.
Tracing the meandering lives of a group of friends striving to make it big in Hollywood, Swinger’s male-dominated focus would struggle to get an ‘F’ in the Bechdel test. It is no celebration of crude masculinity, however. As its characters flit about the LA nightlife from party to party, their every facet and flaw is laid bare with commendably raw honesty. By turns they are funny, fearful, philosophical, fatheaded and, at their very best, effortlessly cool (with a small ‘c’) and a genuine pleasure to spend time with.
Swingers is also the ultimate post break-up film for guys. Favreau admitted the script is a comedic treatment of his own life at that time, and pulls no punches with the angst his character still suffers six months after splitting with an ex-girlfriend. As the best friend relentlessly counselling him to move on and start picking up women (or “beautiful babies” as he describes them with skin-crawling relish), Vaughn has never, ever been better. Neither has Favreau for that matter, as, ironically, Swingers also propelled him from actor playing a struggling actor to genuine Hollywood player. So catch it while you can – just don’t be surprised when you start reassuring friends they are “so money” in times of emotional need.
SET THE RECORDER FOR:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Saturday June 7, Film4, 5:50pm
It’s very easy to deride and dodge The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a film that tears up the chronological order of time by having its eponymous character born and old and die young. Especially when this age reversal takes place over the course of two and three-quarter hours. But for all its supposed flaws, David Fincher’s fantasy epic is a unique work of love and loss that offers much in reward, not least Brad Pitt’s measured performance as the man living his life backwards.
Sunday June 8, ITV1, 10:20pm
If Atonement’s period drama aesthetic summons up thoughts of the melodrama of Downtown Abbey, cast those aside immediately. Quite simply, nothing should prevent you from watching Joe Wright’s dazzling adaptation of Ian McEwan’s Booker Prize-nominated novel. With superb performances from James McAvoy, Keira Knightly and Saoirse Ronan, it defies catagorisation and should instead be enjoyed for its account of a tragedy spanning six decades caused by jealousy and false accusation.
Sunday June 8, BBC Two, 10:45pm
Coming-of-age comedy dramas have long been a Hollywood staple. Prior to Adventureland, director Greg Mottola had already scored a hit with one in the shape of the raucous Superbad. Here he dials things down to give us the much sweeter, elegiac yet no less funny (thanks to the double-act of Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader) story of Jesse Eisenberg’s James, forced by financial hardship to abandon plans of a European vacation and instead take a job at his distinctly second-rate local amusement park. With support from Kristen Stewart and Ryan Reynolds, Adventureland lends a refreshing air of authenticity to an often overcooked genre.
Follow Nick Norton on Twitter @OnlyForKoolKids