The Tribeca Film Festival is a shining example of good coming from evil. Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff established the film festival in 2002, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks left the TriBeCa (“Triangle below Canal street”) area damaged. The festival looked to help revitalize the lower Manhattan area with a celebration of film, music, and culture. One of the latest DVD offerings from Tribeca Film is Måns Herngren’s The Swimsuit Issue. If Herngren’s film is any indication of the type of quality foreign films available at the Film Festival, De Niro, Rosenthal, and Hatkoff have done not only New York City, but also the whole country, a wonderful service.
The Swimsuit Issue is a story about friends, relationships, and parenting masquerading as a hilarious sports and buddy comedy. Jonas Inde plays Frederick, an unemployed journalist, aging, competitive sports enthusiast, and single, out of touch father. Frederick and his group of friends throw a bachelor party, and as a prank, they film themselves synchronize swimming (as good as a group of middle-aged men who have never done so before can, anyway), and are a hit at the wedding when they play the tape. A rich old woman enjoys the prank so much that she says she is willing to pay anything to have the men attend her upcoming party and perform their routine. Frederick sees an opportunity to make some cash, and says they’ll do it for “ten large” ($10,000). At the same time, Frederick’s daughter Lillemor – played by Maria Langhammer – moves in with him while her mother moves to London for work. The boys practice, and show up at the party ready to perform. They prove “too good”, though, and the crowded party doesn’t get the joke. This failure somehow gives Frederick the idea that the men should train to become Sweden’s only all male synchronized swimming team, and the race to the summer Olympics is on.
It isn’t the story that makes The Swimsuit Issue such a successful film, as one might guess from the synopsis. Instead, it’s the flawed, realistic characters that writers Måns Herngren, Jane Magnusson, and Brian Cordray bring to the film. The story plays second fiddle to the relationships in the film, making The Swimsuit Issue more than just a dumb sports comedy, but a comedy with depth, heart, and lots of laughs. Fortunately the story never disappears, though, and the audience will find themselves caring about whether or not they make it to the Olympics. It’s the fusion of this funny story and these engaging characters that make The Swimsuit Issue a blast to sit through.
The characters would be nothing without the talents of the actors. As good as Jonas Inde is, it’s the group of guys around him that make the film enjoyable. Andreas Rothlin-Svensson, who plays Charles, Frederick’s best friend, is wonderful, and garners the most sympathy from the group as the guy who wants to “not be the worst”. Maria Langhammer is an excellent young talent, and handles the maturity that is required of the role with ease. The writer/director brings up a love interest for her character, but that plot is never developed in the film. It would have been nice to see even another side of Langhammer’s acting ability had that plot point been developed further, but she does a lot with what she’s given. The Swimsuit Issue works thanks to a strong leading cast, but thrives because of the work of the male ensemble.
The charm of The Swimsuit Issue comes in two forms: the characters and the humor. This is a buddy-comedy at its core, but there’s more to it than that. It discusses gender issues, homosexuality, friendship, single parent living, and the sacrifices of competition, all while maintaining witty dialogue and interesting characters. Like the director says (in an interview included on the DVD), the fact that these middle-aged men are trying to become synchronized swimmers stops being funny after about ten minutes, but that’s when the relationships take over and the film becomes higher art than simply a “buddy comedy” or slapstick shtick. The Swimsuit Issue has the potential to appeal to any audience member looking for a comedy with realistic characters and a heartwarming message.
This DVD release by Tribeca Film has no visual or audio mishaps. The DVD doesn’t list any technical specifications, but Amazon has the contrast ratio at 1.33:1 with a 16×9 widescreen presentation. I can’t imagine the film looking much better anywhere else than it does on this DVD. The audio is given a Swedish Digital DTS sound treatment with English subtitles. There are no other options accessible on the disc.
My Tribeca Story (2:23): Director Måns Herngren talks about his process of filming The Swimsuit Issue. The feature is too short to give any glaring insights into the film. He speaks English through the feature, so there are no subtitles.
An Interview with The Swimsuit Issue Team (3:00): Måns Herngren, Jonas Inde, and (co-screenwriter) Jane Magnusson discuss the synchronized swimming training process that happened before filming began. Apparently the men went through six-months of training prior to shooting The Swimsuit Issue. Inde talks about how this period helped bring the cast together as buddies quickly, and helped to cement the fact that these characters were old friends. This is another short feature, but contains more information than other interview.
The Swimsuit Issue is a movie worth seeing. It isn’t earth shattering in what it attempts to do, but it is of better quality than most films in this genre because of the depth of the characters, and their relationships with one another. The audio and video qualities are on par with other DVD releases, but the special features are slim. The main attraction alone, though, is worth the price of admission, and The Swimsuit Issue gets my highest recommendation.
Tribeca Film presents The Swimsuit Issue. Directed by: Måns Herngren. Starring: Jonas Inde, Maria Langhammer, and Andreas Rothlin Svensson. Written by: Måns Herngren, Jane Magnusson, and Brian Cordray. Running time: 102 minutes. Rating: Not Rated. Released on DVD: March 29, 2011.
Tags: Robert De Niro