Volume 96, Issue 7
Tuesday, September 10, 2002

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Even CPR couldn't save Swimfan

Gazette file photo

Starring: Erica Christiansen, Jesse Bradford, Shiri Appleby, Dan Hedaya
Directed by: John Polson

By Brent Carpenter
Gazette Staff

Swimfan is not "Fatal Attraction for teenagers." That line is simply a false marketing ploy spread by Twentieth Century Fox.

It may involve an attraction of some sort and the results do indeed end up fatal for an unlucky few. However, the difference between the two movies is that Swimfan lacks nearly all the thought, originality and suspense which made its unwitting mentor the classic it is today.

Jesse Bradford is Ben, a high-school swimming star who has a sweet girlfriend named Amy (Shiri Appleby) and his hopes set on achieving acceptance to Stanford University on a swimming scholarship.

He makes the mistake of fooling around with the new girl, Madison (Traffic's Erica Christiansen) who, in reality, is an actress of great potential, but tries much too hard to appear troubled. In this role, Christiansen's attempt to add psychological depth to her thinly written character appears like a five alarm nut-bar from the first time the audience sees her.

As far as clichés go, the filmmakers have apparently raided the archives and come up with a list of the many zany things crazy flings do to torment their former partners in lazily written stalker flicks.

Of course nobody believes our hero, Ben, even though Madison has a secret history of whacked-out behaviour and the only other person who knows the truth is the insecure, mentally challenged weirdo to which nobody will give the time of day.

Twenty minutes into this flick, you know exactly where it's going.

The laziest aspect of Swimfan is its reliance on coincidence to advance the plot.

Consider a scene in which Ben makes a grim discovery in the school swimming pool (he's a swimmer, ya see). Rather than coming up with a plausible way in which Ben could be mistaken as the guilty party, the screenplay just fingers him and moves on.

Another annoyance is that the audience knows Madison is going to fly under everyone's radar solely because she knows how to flirt and put on a phony smile.

Since it's established from the get-go that Madison is a little on the creepy side, why is it so easy for her to go unnoticed by the film's blink-and-you-might-miss-him detective?

No matter. Questioning police procedure in this soggy waste of time is like using astrophysics to shoot down some of the "brilliant" theories that arise out of Armageddon.

The movie will, in all likelihood, be seen as just a minor bump in the road for its three promising lead actors.

Bradford is a talented performer who manages to rise above the material.

Same goes for Appleby as, despite playing the clichéd "innocent girlfriend" character, manages to make the audience really hope she steers clear of the vile Madison Belle.

Despite Christiansen's tendency to overact, she still gives a worthy performance to an underwritten, poseur characterization of a mentally deteriorating teenaged girl.

Even Polson's direction is more than half-decent, as he goes beyond the typical point-and-shoot camera work typically seen in many of these unnecessary teen flicks.

Unfortunately, these brief shining moments are overshadowed by the laziness of the predictable screenplay.

So, if you're looking for a Fatal Attraction-esque thriller, then skip Swimfan altogether. Just go rent Fatal Attraction.


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