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last update 10.Jul.18
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A Swingers Weekend
dir Jon E Cohen
prd Nicola Sammeroff
scr Nicola Sammeroff, Jon E Cohen
with Erin Karpluk, Randal Edwards, Michael Xavier, Erin Agostino, Mia Kirshner, Jonas Chernick
karpluk, xavier, agostino and edwards release US 13.Jul.18
17/Canada 1h33
A Swingers Weekend A bright, witty sensibility immediately draws the audience into this Canadian sex comedy. So it's rather annoying that filmmakers Jon Cohen and Nicola Sammeroff seem as awkward about sex as the characters are, shying away from anything even remotely lusty. At least the dramatic elements are sharply written and played, as six people come to terms with hard truths about their relationships.

Lisa and Dan (Karpluk and Edwards) are looking forward to a weekend in a gorgeous lakehouse with their friends Skai and Teejay (Agostino and Xavier). Unknown to Lisa, Dan has also invited Fiona and Geoff (Kirshner and Chernick), which complicates their plan for a bit of partner-swapping. Especially since Fiona had no idea what the plan was. With tension in the air, they set some rules and get on with it. But of course nothing goes the way they expected it to, and each person is going to need to accept a new reality.

The film bristles with awkward humour. Lisa and Dan are simply trying to spark their tired marriage with a no-strings encounter. Fiona feels ambushed. The sexy Teejay and Skai seem like they're a little too keen (they're also the only vaguely mature people in the house). Their encounters initially play for comedy value, avoiding anything remotely sexy or complicated. There's much talk about the struggle to maintain a long-term romance, which reveals the filmmakers' preachy intentions. But darker discussions are far more interesting.

Each actor brings offhanded charm to his or her character, making them easy to like even if they never seem realistic. All are smart, fit and open-minded, so why have they failed to openly speak with their partners about relationships or sex? Karpluk and Chernick have a nice heart-to-heart about how difficult it is to sustain sexual interest after years of marriage, careers and children. Edwards has fun as Dan, who falls like a hapless schoolboy for Agostino's Skai. And each actor plays scenes of conflict with real force.

One rule for this weekend is that the partner-swapping doesn't mean anything. So the script avoids the topic while making mountains out of the resulting molehills. This assumption of morality simplifies everything as each relationship is pushed to a breaking point. Thankfully, things deepen in intriguing directions that highlight a variety of big issues. There's superb dialog between the characters, and the actors dive in with charm, energy and passion. Perhaps if the filmmakers and actors weren't so timid about sex, the film might have had a stronger kick.

15 themes, language, sexuality

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Uncle David 2
dir-prd Gary Reich
scr David Hoyle, Archie Redford, Matt McCabe, Lucy McCormick
with David Hoyle, Archie Redford, Matt Daniels, Lucy McCormick
hoyle release UK Mar.18 flare
18/UK 1h24

flare fest

See also:
Uncle David (2010)

Uncle David 2 In this sequel to his offbeat 2010 black comedy, performance artist David Hoyle basically takes a flamethrower to civilised society, railing against and lampooning superficial values, but always of course with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. The film has a loose warmth to it that draws the audience in, fully aware that we're going to get badly burnt. No, it's not for the faint-hearted.

In his caravan on the Isle of Sheppey, David (Hoyle) is entertaining Michelle (Redford), his young cross-dressing paperboy, who's clearly wants something from this encounter. As they talk about things like why children should be watching Pasolini's Salo instead of going to school to learn how to shop, they notice beardy he-man Matt (Daniels) in a nearby house. David flirts aloofly, but Michelle goes in for the kill. Meanwhile, Matt's sister (McCormick) is intrigued by these two neighbours. She has been talking to David, and when Michelle invites her in, events take a surprising turn.

While the film is meandering and awkward, with conversations that somehow feel both scripted and improvised, there's an underlying method to Hoyle's madness. This is a bracing assault on the fake surfaces that define civilisation, from the makeup women feel they need to wear to clothing, music, sexuality and breathing itself. All from the perspective of this beach on the edge of the world. The movie's primal undercurrents are sometimes overwhelming, catching us off guard as they emerge from skilfully askance angles.

Hoyle's performance is majestically godlike, a middle-aged man who astutely observes the world and makes fatalistic decisions. He aches for a sense of belonging, a lover to share life with, but no one he meets is quite up to par. The three actors around him are less arch, more naturalistic as they play variations on archetypes: the young nymph, lost lover, insecure tough guy. All three are magnetic enough to catch David's attention (and ours too), even if they are doomed to let him down.

Where this goes is artful and challenging, pushing the boundaries of what movies are expected to do. This certainly is not a standard narrative feature; it's a performance piece playing with enormous issues in ways that are hilarious, unsettling and shocking, often all at the same time. This kind of singular work comes with both a high recommendation and a note of caution. But it's a movie that can jolt us from our view of comfortable society. And the climax leaves Hoyle free to indulge in his imagination for another chapter in this story.

15 themes, language, violence

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