Romantic comedy Swinging with the Finkels (2011) is the latest tedious offering from director Jonathan Newman and features Martin Freeman, future star of Peter Jackson’s twin movie big-screen adaptation of The Hobbit. Ellie (Mandy Moore) and Alvin (Freeman) Finkel are a young couple that have lost the spark in their marriage. Desperate to shake things up they decide to try swinging to revamp their love lives.
Swinging with the Finkels is a tiresome and clichéd film that imitates aspects of more enjoyable British romantic comedies, such as Notting Hill and Bridget Jones, but fails to capture any of their charm. The use of the typical rom-com plot (couple face a problem, it looks like they won’t over come that problem, but because they love each other and it must end happily, they do) can be very effective, particularly when the director and writer play with conventions and stereotypes. Unfortunately, any such level of skill is totally absent from this film.
The performances by the two leads are perfectly adequate, which is remarkable considering the dire dialogue and dull story line. The supporting cast are also watchable but the poor quality of the writing hinders all their performances. Angus Deaton’s role as one of the swingers is positively cringeworthy, as is Paul Chowdhry who seems perfectly happy to be the butt of a series of horrible race jokes. Additionally, there are a series of annoying inter-titles with bad quips about relationship stereotypes that attempt to offer up Hello! Magazine-style wisdom.
The main problem however is the treatment of gender stereotypes, which are presented in a cheap and shallow manner. Whilst it attempts to create a jovial atmosphere about the trials of love and long-term relationships, it only succeeds in creating a collection of boring jokes and lukewarm sentimentality. Swinging with the Finkels is nothing more than an indulgent, white middle-class, sexist disaster.
The film switches tone halfway through, leaving the bad jokes behind, and shifting into a more sentimental gear. Admittedly, as clichéd as this is, it is much more enjoyable than the phallic vegetable jokes and awkward breast-feeding humour. But not by much. It is not the subject matter but the treatment of it that makes this a bad film, along with weak characters that an audience could never engage with on even the most superficial of levels.
Swinging with the Finkels falls into the category of those films that are actually bad for you. Failing even to provide tune-out entertainment value, Newman latest should be avoided at all costs.