Friday, January 6, 2012

Take the Plunge: The Big Bad Swim

On Black Friday, had a giant DVD sale and I ended up buying quite a few DVDs for myself. (I could not resist the temptation.) One of these was The Big Bad Swim and I’ve now had the time and opportunity to finally watch it. I should point out from the outset that there was definitely some very bad marketing involved with this movie, particularly with the cover trying to sex things up with some headless bikini-clad babe taking up the upper half. If you have a quiet indie movie on your hands, you are appealing to the wrong audience right there. I would have passed right by this movie if I saw it in a store with that cover. Luckily as I was looking online where I could see the top billing more prominently, I noticed that Paget Brewster (who I just love as Emily Prentiss in Criminal Minds) was in it. That fact led me to check out the movie’s synopsis and reviews and finally conclude that I would very likely enjoy this movie.

The Big Bad Swim follows the lives of a bunch of Connecticut residents taking an adult beginners’ swim class at the local rec center. Everyone has their own story about why they are there – Carl (Kevin Porter Young) is too terrified to even touch the water but he wants to be able to take his son to water parks and swim with him, Paula (Liza Lapira, recognizable to NCIS fans as Agent Lee) is past beginner’s but wants to meet single men and has a particular eye on the instructor, Martin and Joanna (Todd Susman and Darla Hill, respectively) just got a pool so they want to be able to use it, etc. While we see all these people throughout, the movie focuses largely on three characters – Noah (Jeff Branson), the swim instructor who’s clinically depressed; Amy (Paget Brewster), a high school math teacher in the midst of a bitter break-up and starting a fling with a younger guy (Michael Mosley, now seen as Ted on Pan Am); and Jordan (Jess Weixler), a part-time casino dealer and stripper whose dealing with a younger brother and his friend obsessed with filming a documentary of her life. It’s this last story that is perhaps the weakest because I feel like we get to know Jordan the least and don’t really understand her background or motivations.

The Big Bad Swim is definitely a “slice of life” film, giving us a look at these characters during a very specific time frame only – the six weeks that the course spans. The movie does a great job of giving you the feeling that these are real people with several factors going into this impression beyond just the story lines - the excellent acting (Paget Brewster is remarkable as expected, but everyone else really gets into their role as well), how even the side characters have rich back stories, the lines that sometimes sound fumbling (you know, like real speech instead of scripted zingers), how not everyone looks a supermodel, and the slice of life aspect of the film. Because it is only a slice of life movie, you feel sorry when it’s over that you won’t get to spend more time finding out about these people and what other adventures (no matter how small or arguably mundane) life has in store for them.

As a small independent film, some parts of the movie occasionally look less than professionally polished (and I’m not referring to the ones that are intentionally done that way because they are meant to be the boys’ documentary) but overall this is a very well done movie that could have benefited from a better marketing team.

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