The title characters in Swingers, a terrific new comedy about young Los Angeles dudes cruising for a date (and maybe for love), do a lot of things you’d expect from guys on the prowl. They jostle and swagger and act real tough. They go to bars and check out all the ”beautiful babies.” They drink whiskey and martinis and dress in silvery-suave four-button style. At the same time, they do something you don’t expect. They talk — or, more to the point, they talk with a nervous, imploring incessantness, like Woody Allen on the couch or the Seinfeld gang microanalyzing the etiquette of life. In Swingers, the subject of the talk is, inevitably, the vast thicket of rules and rituals a guy has to observe to achieve romantic success in the ’90s. He’s got to approach a girl at just the right moment. He can’t be too tentative or too aggressive. And when he’s won the key to the kingdom — her phone number! — he can’t call too soon. The beauty of Swingers lies in the irony of its title: Despite their lounge-lizard posing, these guys will never really live up to their Rat Pack dreams. They’re looking for action in an era when talk is what counts.
To Trent (Vince Vaughn), a tall, handsome shark as fixed in his destination as a speeding bullet, a guy can score when he’s ”money” — i.e., when he’s got the right stuff, and when he knows he’s got it. ”You’re money!” he tells his friend Mike. ”You’re so money!” But Mike (Jon Favreau), a struggling stand-up comic who ditched his New York City girlfriend to come to the West Coast, doesn’t believe that he’s money. A sweet, anvil-chinned lunk lost in a daze of self-pity, Mike keeps waiting for his ex to beg him back.
Working from Favreau’s exuberantly witty script, director Doug Liman snakes his camera through parties and back-alley lounges, staging sly visual satirical allusions to Reservoir Dogs, GoodFellas, and Saturday Night Fever. He captures something hilarious and touching — a new attitude of wistful modesty on the part of young macho cruisers, a recognition that what works today is raw testosterone in a velvet glove. Swingers takes the form of an ongoing dialogue between Trent the self-aggrandizing chick magnet and Mike the nice-guy hero who badly needs to rediscover his moxie. When Mike finally gets his act together, twirling the girl he’s just met (Heather Graham) around a swing-club dance floor, it’s so exhilarating you want to applaud. If Swingers has a scene-stealer, though, it’s Vince Vaughn, who, I predict, is going to be a very big star. Spooky-cool sexy, like the young Christopher Walken, he makes Trent a rudely magnetic arrested-development case — the spirit of the peacock in all its fearless vanity. Trent likes to call everyone ”baby,” but in the marvelous final scene, we realize that the joke is on him, the biggest baby of all. A