The word swinger no longer has much real-world application unless it’s attached to the word suburban. THere are two provocative ironies running through The Lifestyle, David Schisgall’s sympathetic, open-eyed documentary portrait of a dozen or so middle-class spouse swappers. The first, and most obvious, is that these genial neighborhood sybarites look, collectively, about as wild and sexy as a PTA meeting. Most of them are 50 or older, with wrinkles and sagging bodies. They’re the earnest, conventional types who got left out by the counterculture and then caught up with free love in their dens and rec rooms.
The more resonant irony, though, is that you’d have to go back to the jolly-jiggly nudist-camp films of the ’50s to find a vision of full-frontal sexuality as seemingly cleansed of sin and passion as the one celebrated here. Only in America could the prospect of an orgy hold all the enticing sensual danger of a backyard barbecue.