Swimfan is Fatal Attraction for kids; One Hour Photo showcases the seedy side of Robin Williams

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

Swimfan is a movie that likely got made because Hollywood figured today’s average teenager had never heard of Fatal Attraction.

It is gloriously, goofily dumb and invites the audience to yell at it Mystery Science Theater 3000 style.

Swimfan tells the story of young Brad Cronin (Jesse Bradford), who is well on his way to getting a swimming scholarship (who knew there was such a thing?) to Stanford.

He has a perfect girlfriend (Shiri Appleby, the only actor in this movie who appears to care), a perfect single mother, a perfect job, perfect friends and an almost impossibly virtuous attitude.

The guy works at a hospital with old people, for God’s sake.

And of course, they all love him uniformly.

Then Madison stumbles into his life.

The new girl at school, Madison is played by Erika Christensen, who was incredible as the drugged-out daughter in Traffic. You wouldn’t know that to look at this movie. Her performance seems to completely consist of blank stares and looking really hot.

Swimfan was directed by John Polson in a clunky, heavy-handed manner, which invites laughter.

Observe as he points out that the swimming team has what appears to be a pet baseball bat! Thrill to his montage of Madison’s cello compositions, which then apparently begin to play on the soundtrack!

Dazzle as Madison apparently stumbles into the completely empty hospital from The Godfather!

Fatal Attraction actually tried to be about adultery and contemporary American society, Swimfan seems only to be saying “Don’t sleep with crazy girls.”

This point is well taken by much of the audience, including this reviewer who has crossed crazy girls off the list of potential partners.

Swimfan is a bad movie and it has more flaws than I care to discuss here. But if you’re willing to let it be bad and go with it, you can have yourself a good time with this movie.

2 Stars

The independent film scene in South Dakota is rather dreary and most likely will be until the Sioux Falls film society gets the State Theatre in downtown Sioux Falls up and running again.

For the most part, South Dakotans only get to see the really big indie hits, which trickle down to us weeks after they were released everywhere else.

A case in point is One Hour Photo, which has finally wound its way to Sioux Falls after several weeks of release in larger markets.

The movie tells the dark story of Sy Parrish (Robin Williams), who works as the head developer at a one hour photo kiosk in a Savmart. He forms an attachment to one family in particular (with parents played by Gladiator’s Connie Nielsen and Alias’s Michael Vartan). When that family turns out to not be all he dreamed they were, Sy puts in motion a diabolical plan.

One Hour Photo works best in its opening hour, when director Mark Romanek is busy establishing just how creepy Sy really is.

A shot of a wall in his apartment is a superbly spooky moment and it makes one wonder just who out there in the service industry could grow this attached to us.

Once Romanek tries to force a plot on this chilling character study, however, the movie begins to lose its forward motion, turning into a stereotypical stalker tale.

The film accumulates plot threads that don’t really go anywhere (why exactly was Sy taking pictures of a certain person’s child?) and tries to wrap up the movie with a clumsy revelation.

Romanek shows promise as a director.

He elicits fine performances from all of his actors, especially Williams, who is finally shaking off his Patch Adams malaise with excellent performances in Photo and Insomnia.

Romanek’s work with color, in particular, is outstanding, managing to get across visually the metaphor of a family that has watched the color gradually seep out of their life and a man whose life was colorless to begin with.

The opening five minutes of this movie look like a Kodak commercial in their rich colorful beauty.

Ultimately, One Hour Photo is a deep, rich character study in search of a good plot to hang itself on.

Romanek could be a great director someday.


As One Hour Photo proves, all he needs is to learn how to let his plots grow organically out of his characters.

3.5 Stars