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Unless you were around as it was happening, it’s easy to overlook just how massive Swingers was when it dropped in 1996. No one knew, at the time, who Jon Favreau or Vince Vaughn were. But all of a sudden, movie buffs were screaming about going to “Vegas, baby!” and everyone was using “money” as the highest form of compliment. (Example: “You’re so money, baby, and you don’t even know it.”) Swingers tapped into a rising zeitgeist of outsider cool, making overnight sensations out of swing bands and using Cinema Verite to make L.A. nightlife appear to be the thriving dream of an up-and-coming generation.
But Swingers, first and foremost, is a break-up movie. One of the greates break-up movies. Jon Favreau’s character, Mike, is suffering throughout most of the film, despite everything his kind but egotistical buddy Trent (Vaughn) is trying to do to lift him up. We recently had Vaughn on the ReelBlend podcast to chat up his new film Freaky, but had to mention Swingers as the indie darling is on the verge of turning 25. Looking back on what they accomplished, Vince Vaughn had this to say about Swingers, and its impact:
I think the one thing about it was, I remember saying to [Favreau], you know, ‘Why are we auditioning for stuff that's not really about what's going on?’ I love when I see people who are younger giving themselves permission to write movies or make movies, because you're sort of in a unique moment where you're a part of it. And so for us, it was really like, we really wanted to be uncompromising. And I think what made it unique for us was that we were kind of vulnerable. These were guys that were not … a lot of guys making movies were making movies like the guys were the super coolest or the toughest. And I think part of what makes Swingers work is there’s an honesty, and a vulnerability. They're helping a friend through a breakup. Everyone has different ideas of what the right way is to meet people. Swingers captures that moment where you're either out of high school or out of college, [and] you don't really share anything in common with the girl, or you are in class with her. How do I go up to someone that I don't know at all and be able to make an introduction, and see if there's any chemistry there, when they don't know who I am.
We all remember how Trent handles those beautiful babies. He treats them like a scared little bunny. He doesn’t act like the guy in the PG-13 movie. Trent’s the guy in the rated R movie. Such a classic scene:
But in reflecting on Swingers, Vince Vaughn also realizes that they caught lightning in a bottle with that cast, that script, and the DIY approach that director Doug Liman brought to their filming. They didn’t have a budget. They couldn’t shut down locations. These were newcomer actors playing characters we recognized, and all of that, according to Vince Vaughn, made the movie relatable, and keeps it relevant 25 years later.
He told ReelBlend:
It's dealing with that very unique moment that happened to be specifically set in Los Angeles at a time where a lot of these punk bands were becoming these original swing bands, which was really fun and cool. But the moment I think is relatable, no matter where you are, or where you're from. You're out of college, or with a group of friends. And you're kind of figuring out dating as an adult for the first time, and maybe moving away, potentially, from where you're from and dealing with heartbreak. So I think that the movie has a comedic version. But at the core, at the essence of it, I think, you know, you're not really inventing stuff. You're just kind of revealing what's already there, which is the journey that Jon's character takes. Which is, ‘It’s, it's better to be myself and make a real connection with someone than to try to remember to be all these things that I'm not. And then maybe really not have someone get to know me.’ It's sort of a lesson that we have to go through.
Swingers is one of those movies I’m not surprised we’re still discussing 25 years after the fact. It’s so relatable, and in tune with its audience, I’m quite certain we’ll be talking about it for the next 25 years. Here’s our full ReelBlend conversation with Vince Vaughn:
And make sure that you check out Freaky when it hits select theaters on Friday, November 13.