The contemporary break-up movie seems to be one tinged with the bitter loss of love, rather than the joyous freedom of such a life-changing event. Noah Baumbach’s heart-wrenching Marriage Story sees Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson tear their memories of each other apart, whilst Ari Aster’s Midsommar contextualises a breakup in the realm of graphic horror. This wasn’t always the case with the break-up movie, with the cult classic Swingers from Doug Liman showing audiences that sometimes heartache isn’t always that bad.
Written by Jon Favreau — who would later find fame with scripts for Chef and The Mandalorian, whilst acting in Marvel’s Iron Man — Swingers would provide a springboard not just for Favreau, but for co-star Vince Vaughn and Doug Liman too. The comedy-drama follows the lives of several unemployed actors living on the fringes of fame on the ‘eastside’ of Hollywood, California.
Completing the screenplay in just two weeks using a screenwriting program on his computer, Favreau drew from a recent breakup to inspire the story, though outlined that the story and preceding events were fictional. Joining the ranks of Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused and Kevin Smith’s Clerks, Swingers found itself among the community of ‘slacker’ movies, depicting young, lost characters merely enjoying the joy of their existence.
Punctuating their liberating happiness with constant shouts of “Vegas, baby!” while Vince Vaughn’s Trent constantly shouted “money” as a compliment, Swingers tapped into a late ‘90s subculture, quickly becoming an icon of contemporary style. Establishing an image of a thriving L.A. nightlife, Liman’s film was an embodiment of young aspiration, featuring characters and attitudes deemed cool, confident and highly desirable.
As the sagacious, arrogant friend, Vince Vaughn flourishes in the spotlight, helping to catapult his career forward into the bright lights of Hollywood after staggering his way through the early ‘90s. Speaking to Cinemablend about the legacy of Swingers Vaughn stated, “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”.
Continuing, Vaughn adds, “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”. Concluding, Vaughn observantly explains, “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?”.
Imbued with a youthful sense of charming chutzpah that drives the egos of the lead characters, Swingers is an endearing ode to the allure and nostalgia of youth, when a breakup had delightfully few consequences and freedom was prioritised