September 12, 2002

Not a Fan

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A few years ago, Cruel Intentions came out as a relatively fresh teenage makeover of the movie, Dangerous Liaisons. In the same manner, Swimfan tries to recreate the obsessive suspense of the 1987 film Fatal Attraction. Transforming the setting to a New Jersey high school, the teenage characters that carry out the psychologically driven story fail to deliver much suspense or emotion. Instead the film feels a bit flat, and the only thing surprising about the movie is the incredulous plot twists.

The movie opens by introducing an ex-delinquent turned star athlete Ben Cronin (Jesse Bradford) and his loving girlfriend, Amy (Shiri Appleby). Their love for each other is portrayed as very solid, yet it takes Madison Bell (Erika Christensen), the new babe at school, a little more than a day to seduce Ben. He soon learns that cheating on his girlfriend, well, at least, cheating with Madison, was the biggest mistake he’s ever made.

It is hard to feel much sympathy for Ben, however. His character is written with contrasting personalities, as a loving boyfriend who betrays his girlfriend with hardly any hesitation, as a good son who maintains a distance from his mother. Nevertheless, Bradford lends Ben a pessimistic personality, which makes it easy for the audience to believe that the main character has always been troubled by his past and that his current mistakes also plague him deeply.

As the girlfriend, Appleby is hardly given any lines worth mentioning; even when she finds about the betrayal, she simply struts away looking very hurt. The starring role of this movie should go to Christensen, but she plays Ben’s psychotic stalker with barely any believability.

When Ben first meets her, she comes off as helpless and possibly emotionally scarred. Apparently, first impressions can be deceiving, because somehow, she infiltrates all of Ben’s activities, including high security places such as hospitals, major swim meets, etc. and manages, in a couple of days, to ruin everything for Ben and those close to him.

The poor dialogue and staged emotions contribute to an overall tedious and not so suspenseful film. Although I admit that some parts did have me a bit interested, I’m glad that I had my movie paid for. For a plot that had plenty of potential for proving itself as one of the better teen films, this one definitely sank.

Archived article by Yiwei Wang