Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Swimsuit Edition 2009

This is one of the movies I watched this year that I really enjoyed. It is what I would call a “masculinist” film not a macho film. It is the kind of film we have seen before that explores men’s issues with their bodies, social-gender idiosyncrasies, self-esteem, etc. The film is in the same vein as “ The Full Monty” but touching on issues not usually found in sports comedies: hard times, fragmented families, reverse discrimination. It’s the situations that are comical, not the characters. There is a good play of the father-daughter relationship between Frederik (played by Jonas Inde) and his daughter.

It is a Swedish movie that follows a group of middle-aged men, not particularly buff or aquatic, as they decided to train for a world championship in male synchronized swimming. The group has been lured into it this by Fredrik, an out-of-work, divorced journalist who lives for the games of floor hockey. Fredrik's life is sort of a mess. He has left his job, he's sinking slowly into middle-age, supported only by his long-time floor ball friends, who have been getting together ever since they were title contenders back in the mid-Eighties.

After they lose their time slot at the recreation center for reverse discrimination issues. They are invited to a weird party, where nobody gets their routine, these guys make a video of themselves through a synchronized routine and are a huge hit. Hired to perform at another party, they play it straight and bomb, but realize that they’re onto something.

Frederik finds himself having to come to terms with fatherhood he has long forgotten, when his ex-wife moves to London, forcing his 17-year-old daughter Sara to move in with him, at least in the short term. Sara (Amanda Davin), who is tired of her father’s competitiveness and self-pity. A synchronized swimmer herself, Sara is at first embarrassed by her dad’s new pursuit but eventually impressed enough to offer to coach. But what starts as a joke soon turns into something a lot more serious as they decide to have a real shot at the sport, in an attempt to win the world championships.

Although the set up is a bit more complex and, it requires suspension of disbelief. Men facing the inexorable tick of time, have a chance at something inherently funny, at the same time find an unexpected level of dignity and friendship. The film’s conclusion is unexpected and sweet. 

Some film critics have found the film lacking some depth beyond the father-daughter relationship, suffering from a failure to either focus on the relationship between long-time friends which reveals latent prejudices, like homophobia or on the kinds of minor prejudices in society which the ageing sportsmen. The film’s script was written by Jane Magnusson and Måns Herngren (who also directs). In spite of this, I recommend this film.

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