“Swingers” makes movie night money

By Kevin Wilson

As an unwritten rule, workers in the Portales editorial department need to have a certain cinematic IQ to get along with me. Obscure movie references and disturbingly accurate scene reprisals make up a percentage of my conversation that I’m embarrassed to admit.
So it was right down my alley when I read David Stevens’ column on Wednesday about the long-forgotten film, “Hud.” Stevens was a little disappointed that the 1963 Paul Newman western was not mentioned in a list top 10 movie quotes.
I also believe that a great movie from my generation was under-represented, and it also comes from the discounted rental rack.
A few weeks ago, I celebrated my 25th birthday in a satisfying fashion … lunch with my friends at a Chinese restaurant, and a trip to the video store to redeem my free movie rental.
It was then that I rented “Swingers,” along with other DVDs that fit the category of movies I had never got around to watching. A few hours later, it entered a new category: movies I must buy.
A 1996 independent film, “Swingers” exposed the late 1990s-early 2000s scene for single males, a realm which I remain a part of, seven years after its original release. How I missed this movie is unexplainable — I must have spent ’96 watching Chris Rock’s HBO comedy special 971 times, but I never got to “Swingers” once.
Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau (who wrote the script) give breakthrough performances, as they play Trent Walker and Mike Peters — ironically, two young men trying to make it in Hollywood. They succeed by managing to show us the men we want to be, the men we wish we weren’t, and the man that we are on those days where the planets are aligned correctly — all in 96 unforgettable minutes.
Trent, a.k.a. Double Down Trent, is the life of the movie while Mike is the guy you root for. Throughout, Mike listens to Trent’s diatribes about how to live his life. It’s advice you know you should listen to, but something tells him it’s a bad idea.
“I don’t want you to be the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone’s really hoping makes it happen,” Trent shouts. “I want you to be like the guy in the rated R movie, you know? The guy you’re not sure whether or not you like yet. You’re not sure where he’s coming from. OK? You’re a bad man. You’re a bad man.”
In the end, Mike was a bad man, but one you rooted for. “Swingers” had enjoyable characters like Trent, and also helped spur the retro swing movement that peaked in late 1996 and died in 1998. It temporarily mutated our vocabulary (i.e. using the term, “money” as an adjective), but its quotes will always represent my generation.
• Trent Walker: “You always double down on 11.”
• Rob (played by Ron Livingston of “Office Space” fame): “You don’t look at the things you have. You only look at the things you don’t have.”
• Trent: “It is so on.”
• Trent: “Baby, you were so money and you don’t even know it.”
• Trent: “I didn’t want to say anything. It’s kinda like not talking to your pitcher during a no-hitter.”
• Trent: “Somehow they know not to come back until you really forget.”
• Trent: “This is the guy behind the guy behind the guy.”
These are probably quotes that many movie-goers will never understand. Maybe it’s because they don’t use video game hockey to procrastinate. Or blow money in Vegas to impress women. Or welcome sleep deprivation with a 3 a.m. diner run. Or any of the activities that make Trent and Mike the friends every guy needs.
A few decades down the road, this classic may end up just like “Hud” — underappreciated, disrespected, the reason I watch movies.
Only time will tell whether or not I’m the PG-13 guy or the guy in the R movie. For now, I’m the guy who can’t get enough of “Swingers.” It’s so money and you don’t even know it.

Kevin Wilson is a staff writer for the Portales News-Tribune. He can be contacted at 356-4483 or by e-mail:
Kevin_Wilson@link.freedom.com