Swinging with the Finkels, 2011.
Directed by Jonathan Newman.
Starring Martin Freeman, Mandy Moore, Melissa George,Jerry Stiller, Jonathan Silverman and Angus Deayton.
A London couple take up swinging in an effort to save their failing marriage.
It is a big year for Martin Freeman. This could well be the defining year of his cinematic career. As a TV star he’s had the fortune to have had critically lauded, iconic roles in The Office, not to mention his role in the recent BBC series Sherlock. His film career has yet to hit similar heights. He’s starred in the fairly enjoyable big screen adaptation of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, but aside from that there’s not been much of note. Certainly he’s got the potential to gain the sort of box office draw that Hugh Grant and Colin Firth have managed over the years. His role as Bilbo Baggins in the The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, out the tail end of 2012, could well launch him up to that level. In the meantime audiences can “enjoy” Swinging with the Finkels. The film had a brief and uneventful run in cinemas last year, but finds its way to DVD now.
This will not go down as one of Freeman’s finer points amongst some strong work. This is one of those dreary British sex comedies that pertains to apparent real life hang ups us Brits have about sex and relationships. There have been some woeful films over the years about our stiff up lips (and stiff what-have-you’s) and the bedroom goings on of the average middle class Tommy. Often with a film like this, there’s a sense that the writer and director (in this case both the same man, Mr Jonathan Newman) feel they’re making something witty and piercingly satirical in its sharp observations. The film however is far from it. Sex comedies are far more at home in the setting of High School, with awkward, geeky and slightly hopeless, teens grossing their way through 90 minutes of trying to get laid. Here, Freeman has been married to Mandy Moore for nine years, which have now seen the spark gone. They whine a little about it with their similarly bored friends played by Melissa George and Jonathan Silverman. It’s all dull, and not even the titular swinging can raise any interest.
The cast are all amiable enough. The trouble is, Freeman can do amiable in his sleep. The casting is very odd. The couplings just don’t seem right, and there’s literally no chemistry. Perhaps in the context of the film that may well work, at least before the expected happy ending but could you imagine Martin Freeman and Mandy Moore as a married couple in a million years? No, I certainly couldn’t. Same goes for George and Silverman. Elsewhere, and bizarrely (and slightly disturbingly) Angus Deayton (literally making an ass of himself) and Louis Spence turn up.
Tonally the film can never decide if it wants to delve into gross-out territory or not. It dips its toes in sometimes but with no impact or wit. The gags don’t come thick and fast here, quite the opposite (erm, thin and slow??) and given this should be a comedy, that’s not a good thing. There’s a constant feeling of inevitability about everything that happens. We know how it’s going to end, but the characters often act with no logic or intelligence. Freeman is playing an idiot here, only he wasn’t particularly written to be intended as a blithering idiot. He just comes across that way from the poor writing and Freeman’s off the page performance. Mandy Moore is okay but likewise, the ridiculousness and vapidness of the plot and characters really doesn’t help any of the actors engage with the audience.
Overall there’s very little to recommend in this film. If you’ve ever wondered what it would look like if Angus Deayton walk around with his backside hanging out, or Mandy Moore decided to masturbate with a cucumber because her friend told her to, then this is the film for you. Otherwise, if you’re in a bawdy mood then just watch The Inbetweeners instead.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film * / Movie *