Swingers (1996): Indie Comedy, Written by Doug Liman, Directed by Jon Favreau

The most commercially successful of the “Walking and Talking” cycle of movies was Swingers, a diverting comedy that recalls Diner and other hanging out movies.

Directed with flair by Doug Liman, and wittily written by Jon Favreau, Swingers is a coming-of-age comedy about unemployed showbiz types, depicting the tribal rituals of singlehood and romantic success in the 1990s, the pleasures and terrors of life after dark: How to approach a girl at the right moment, how not to be too tentative or too aggressive, how not to call too soon after getting a girl’s phone number.

Mike (Favreau) a newly-landed actor in Hollywood, is still aching for the girl he left behind. Trent (Vince Vaughn), his smooth-operator friend, is a Dean Martin type. The pair, along with their faux-hipster buddies, roam the scene, toss back drinks and sniff skirts. Occasionally, Trent steels his nerve and talks to the local talent, but not Mike, a forlorn comic who mostly pouts. Mike’s friends try to help him overcome his romantic longing and his addiction to his answering machine and video games.

Manohla Dargis has perceptively pointed out that Swingers is implicitly homoerotic. As usual, what counts aren’t the girls but the boys, their sweet-clumsy ways in which they make love to one another without ever shedding their clothes. Liman covers parties and back-alley lounges, staging satirical allusions to Reservoir Dogs, GoodFellas, and Saturday Night Fever, capturing as Owen Glieberman has noted something hilariously touching–a new wistful attitude of macho cruisers.

Swingers, said director Liman, was “the first film to address the politics of the answering machine and how it is now part of the dating culture.”

Liman, who made Swingers for $250,000 and then sold it for $5 million to Miramax, consciosuly put his friends and their lingo onscreen. “We have a certain lingo that we use, which only means something to us, but it is infectious. When other people hear it, they start using it too.”