Swimfan


Directed by: John Polson
Written by:Charles F. Bohl, Phillip Scheider
Starring: Jesse Bradford, Erika Christensen, Shiri Appleby, Kate Burton, Dan Hedaya
Released: October 10, 2002
Grade: B-

Congratulations to Australian John Polson for getting the opportunity and making the most of it.  As an actor, Polson has appeared in many Aussie films including Sirens, The Sum Of Us, Idiot Box and The Boys.  His only two directing credits are What’s Going On, Frank? and Siam Sunset.  If you’ve never heard of either film, you’re not alone.

With a budget under $10m, Polson was given a cheesy script and some inexperienced actors.  In an effort to steer away from the unoriginal, Polson brings style to the production.  During key scenes, he stutters the camera and cuts-away quickly.  It seems so simple but it does add to the suspense and overall enjoyment.

The story revolves around the star of the high school swim team, Ben Cronin (Bradford).  He’s got a great relationship going with his girlfriend Amy (Appleby) and college scouts are soon coming to the school to check him out.  Now that we know Ben is the ultimate nice guy, it’s time to feel sorry for him in the mayhem that follows.

Arriving at the school is Madison Belle (Christensen) and on her first day, introduces herself to Ben in a conveniently staged moment.  This is only the beginning.  Setting up another coincidental meeting, the two wind up in the school pool and the two make love.  The film makes the obvious distinction of course that none of this is Ben’s fault and it’s all Madison’s manipulation.

Now that she has leverage, Madison moves into phase two.  Ben regrets his actions (of course) but Madison plans on using his mistakes to drive a wedge between him and Amy.  Ben can see what she’s playing at but it seems no one else can.  His life turns to shit but Madison is unrelenting - all she wants is him and she’s prepared to stop at nothing to have him.

I know it’s designed only for cheap teen thrills, but after an interesting opening, the film loses all track of plausibility.  Following a scene where one of Ben’s friends winds up dead in a pool, I could only laugh and mock the lunacy of almost every scene.  But I’m not really in the target audience and since the film is performing rather well in the States, maybe my judgment is flawed?  Nah.

Having not seen her since Traffic, Erika Christensen gets the best role and is very good.  Jesse Bradford is decent too but not given the same opportunities.  Shiri Appleby (from the short-lived TV series Roswell) is wasted but good eye-candy.

Certainly above most teen films of today, Swimfan still doesn’t climb too highly on my approval chart.  It’s silly entertainment, and nothing more.  I like something more.