I’m a sucker for a good love story. There, I said it. The one guy on staff who’ll drone on and on about the importance of Robocop and The Marx Bros. can, and will, get wrapped up in a great love story. That’s one of the many reasons Chaplin’s City Lights is still one of my favorite movies of all time. Heck, I even like …When Harry Met Sally; it’s great! Now, I knew going in Swinging With the Finkels wasn’t going to be the love story of the year. Judging by the trailer, it looked like a charming rom-com with attractive people and Jerry Stiller. Can’t go wrong with that combination, right?
What I got was a sex comedy without any heart, brains, or laughs.
Swinging With the Finkels
Director: Jonathan Newman
The movie tells the tale of Ellie and Alvin Finkel, two successful good looking people living in London that have hit a rough patch in their eight year marriage. It boils down to the two of them being bored with each other in bed, and seek some outside help from their friends and family. What follows is a predictable series of madcap attempts to save their marriage through spicing up their sex life. Cucumbers, firemen outfits, they try it all. But then they try “swinging”. You know, consensual sleeping around.
And it’s this flawed, inconceivable storyline that is one of the worst things about this flick. Yeah, not having good sex is a problem, but it’s manageable. It’s not worth moving out of your house because of that one problem. It’s something you sit down and rationally talk about with your significant other. I feel like writer/director Jonathan Newman has no idea what it’s like to sit down and have a rational sex talk with your partner. And the Clerks-esque bumpers between scenes don’t add to anything. Really, they do nothing but separate scenes from an already disjointed film.
But the bigger problem with the movie isn’t necessarily the story it tells, but how it’s told. Right off the bat, we’re dropped into the middle of this situation without so much as the main characters’ names. It’s like you’re flipping through channels when you finally find a movie you settle on. But you’ve missed the entire first act. Then the movie tries to tell two stories at once: the one about the Finkels saving their marriage, and the one about their friends’ divorce. Here’s a note for writers: If you can’t tell one story well, don’t try and tell two stories to hide storytelling issues. And none of the structure problems are helped by bland performances all around. When Jerry Stiller gives an uninspired performance in a role that’s easier to play than the extra in the coffee shop, you know you’re in trouble.
It breaks my heart knowing Martin Freeman knowingly accepted this job, because all of his comedic timing and charm goes to waste. You don’t need to watch an entire episode of BBC’s The Office to know how talented the guy is. At least I can go back and watch Sherlock to get my fix of Freeman. And even though I’ve never been the biggest fan of Mandy Moore, the roles I’ve seen her in were passable enough. Charming and passionate, Moore is a movie star, just not the greatest. And seeing her talent squandered on such an abysmal script as this makes you wonder how badly she needed the job.
At the end of the day, Swinging With the Finkels is nothing but a bad movie. Honestly, you’re better off going to see Crazy Stupid Love again. Or if you’re a Martin Freeman junkie like me, go watch The Office for a more charming and realistic love story.