Swimfan (2002) / Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual content, disturbing images, and language
Running Time: 85 min.
Cast: Jesse Bradford, Erika Christensen, Shiry Appleby, Kate Burton, Clayne Crawford, Jason Ritter, Dan Hedaya, Kia Goodwin
Director: John Polson
Screenplay: Charles Bohl, Phillip Schneider
Review published September 6, 2002
I’m not much of a swimfan, but I am a fan of good movies, so I guess I’m not much of a Swimfan fan either. Not that I expected a really good film anyway, considering it is just a teen retread of Fatal Attraction, which in itself was a retread of Play Misty for Me. Other than the feeling of déjà vu from the main plot, Swimfan would have still failed even if it were completely original because it failed to do two basic things that Fatal Attraction did so well: (a) establish why the male protagonist would consider cheating on the woman he loves so much and (b) give us some reasoning or sympathy for the seductress for the destructive behavior once she is told to go away. Instead we have Erika Christensen (Traffic, The Perfect Score) threatening violence or attempting homicide whenever she feels the slightest displeasure in anyone for no rhyme or reason. Could it be an improper diet? We’ll never know.
Jesse Bradford (According to Spencer, Bring It On) plays Ben Cronin, the swim champ of his local high school and part-time janitor for the nearby hospital. Things seem to be on their way to working out for Ben, with a probable trip to Stanford with an athletic scholarship, with Amy (Appleby, The Battle of Shaker Heights), his girlfriend who’s madly in love with him, contemplating going to a nearby school. All he is asked to do is to concentrate on the upcoming swim meet, as it is likely make or break for his chances at the prestigious school. Concentration soon proves a little difficult since the arrival of Madison Belle (Christensen), the new girl in school who is not only attractive, but seems to have taken a fancy to him. Madison soon begins to make her moves on Ben, and Ben finds it impossible to resist indulgence in a fling with her. However, he comes to his senses and decides he wants to just be friends, and while Madison agrees, she still schemes on getting Ben back no matter what.
While it would seem like it could be a decent teen suspense romp, it is actually surprising how little entertainment value Swimfan delivers. Although derivative films can still merit value if played for fun, Swimfan is mostly humorless, even if some of the situations are laughable. Also, the film doesn’t try to throw any curveballs whatsoever, and while I was trying to keep myself entertained in finding ways Madison wasn’t responsible for what was going on, the screenwriters don’t even bother throwing the occasional red herring now and then to keep us on our toes. Also, the direction does attempt to employ a sense of style, with a series of cuts and repositions of the camera to give the sense of something being askew in the mind of young Madison, yet somehow it feels forced, and consequently, ineffective.
Lastly, most viewers probably won’t identify with Ben’s plight because he seems to have wanted to pursue Madison as much as she wanted to pursue him, putting himself in situations that might cause the eventual tawdry result. He’s a jerk who cheated on someone who loves him and was about to change her life to be with him, yet he is willing to throw it all away for his own moment of lust. After getting his jollies, he acts like a complete ass to Madison and most everyone else in his life, and without much to go on in terms of evidence, he makes wild threats and accusations to Madison of how horrible she is and to stay away. That he ends up being right in the end is almost beside the point.
Swimfan is a barebones suspense flick about teen obsession, and the creators are content to churn up the titillation factor but are lethargic when it comes to injecting anything clever into the mix. Considering it is covering well-traveled territory already, without any new spin, it loses all reason to exist. Swimfan is only recommended for horny guys who are as obsessed with Erika Christensen as much as Madison is with Ben.
©2002 Vince Leo