Buena Vista Home Entertainment
93 minutes/Rated 'R'
wants to be the Beatles," demurs Joan (Lisa Stansfield)
in Swing, after being invited to sing in a band. "Not
exactly an original idea, is it?"
Her character has a point. After all, if you score your musical
comedy/dramas on originality, you'll certainly be inclined
to deduct points from Swing for a plot that borrows heavily
from the 1991 film The Commitments. It's all here: the unlikely,
contentious misfits from an impoverished U.K. town, pawing
for a handful of stardust by performing music from a bygone
era. Substitute the slums of Liverpool for the ghettos of
Dublin and swing music for soul, and you have what appears
to be—on paper, at least—a near-Xerox of a decade-old crowd
But Swing distinguishes itself with its relentlessly optimistic
tone and emphasis on a beguiling romance between Joan and
her ex-con ex-boyfriend, Martin (Hugo Speer, the well-endowed
stripper from The Full Monty). Stung by Joan's marriage to
his arresting officer, Martin remains committed to assembling
a swing band and spreading the gospel of the Lindy Hop, as
taught to him by his sax-playing cellmate (Clarence Clemons).
Joined by an ex-skinhead on drums, a few belligerent Orangemen
on horns and a childhood chum who'd rather chase skirts than
pluck bass strings, Martin and Joan soon rediscover their
ability to make beautiful music together—much to her husband’s
by breathtaking cinematography and production designs that
transform squalid flats into kaleidoscopic kitschfests and
shabby dancefloors into shimmering cascades of vibrant red
and indigo blue, writer/director Nick Mead effectively conveys
the escapist lure of swing music. Stansfield's vocals are
a sinful opiate, and she and Speer demonstrate the kind of
combustible chemistry that simply can't be scripted or directed.
As light and airy as cotton candy, this gossamer confection
leaves a somewhat fleeting, though undeniably pleasant, aftertaste.
Bottom line: Swing now and think later.