Review: ‘Swimfan’

John Polson's "Swimfan" is the latest to take a dip into the waters of "Fatal Attraction"-like obsessive love with the twist being that players are teenagers who behave like so many consenting adults in Gap clothing Pic doesn't look to stay afloat very long before paddling its way to the video store.

This review was updated on Sept. 9, 2002.

John Polson’s “Swimfan” is the latest to take a dip into the waters of “Fatal Attraction”-like obsessive love with the twist being that players are teenagers who behave like so many consenting adults in Gap clothing. Its estimated $12 million opening weekend notwithstanding, pic doesn’t look to stay afloat very long before paddling its way to the video store.

Pic focuses on Ben Cronin (Jesse Bradford), a champion high school swimmer with a suitably attractive girlfriend, Amy (Shiri Appleby). Enter Madison Bell (Erika Christensen), the “new girl in town,” about whom nobody knows anything and who lives in a weird, Dickensian mansion complete with a creepy aunt (Phyllis Somerville) and partially deaf cousin (James Debello). Of course, our young innocent Ben falls victim to the new girl’s charms, and they have a one-night-stand in the high school swimming pool.

And of course, Madison promises Ben that no one should ever speak of this incident again, that they’ll just pretend it never happened. But Madison doesn’t just go away; in fact, she’s louder and clearer than before, leaving Ben notes, jamming his e-mail inbox with hundreds of messages and even bringing birthday flowers to Ben’s mom (Kate Burton).

When all that isn’t enough to win Ben “back,” Madison goes about sabotaging Ben’s life, from his relationship with Amy to his athletic career. And she somehow manages to get away with all this without leaving so much as a shred of incriminating evidence.Indeed, “Swimfan” is a chiller resolutely without chills, in which even the pool water always seems heated. And inasmuch as the pic never owns up to its own trashiness, it’s not even enjoyable camp — like Mary Lambert’s recent “The In-Crowd” — even though there’s about as much underage drinking, heavy petting and full-on sex as you can imagine this side of a very surprising PG-13 rating. And “Swimfan” doesn’t stop there: Ben’s skills in larceny end up savingthe day, which pretty much quashes any chance the film has at being perceived as a cautionary tale.

The good news is that the pic’s running time of 84 minutes is mercifully brief, and the film is a fine showcase for Christensen, who played Michael Douglas’ daughter in “Traffic.” Also, the frequent underwater photography, courtesy of lenser Giles Nuttgens (“The Deep End”) and underwater d.p. Gary Shlifer, is well accomplished.



A 20th Century Fox release and presentation of a Greenstreet Films/Cobalt Media Group/Further Films production. Produced by John Penotti, Allison Lyon Segan, Joe Caracciolo Jr. Executive producers, Fisher Stevens, Tim Williams. Co-producers, Marcy Drogin, Jamie Gordon, Bradley Yonover. Directed by John Polson. Screenplay, Charles Bohl, Phillip Schneider.


Camera (Deluxe color and prints, widescreen), Giles Nuttgens; editor, Sarah Flack; music, Louis Febre; musical themes, John Debney; executive music producer, Alex Steyermark; production designer, Kalina Ivanov; art director, Frank White III; set decorator, Diana White; costume designer, Arjun Bhasin; sound (Dolby), Charles R. Hunt; supervising sound editor, John Nutt; associate producer, Courtney Potts; assistant director, Stephen Lee Davis; underwater camera, Gary Shlifer; casting, Mindy Marin, Amanda Harding. Reviewed at AMC Century 14, Sept. 6, 2002. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 84 MIN.


Ben - Jesse Bradford Madison - Erika Christensen Amy - Shiri Appleby Carla - Kate Burton Josh - Clayne Crawford Randy - Jason Ritter Rene - Kia Joy Goodwin Coach Simkins - Dan Hedaya Mr. Tillman - Michael Higgins Detective John Zabel - Nick Sandow Mrs. Egan - Pamela Isaacs Danta - James Debello Aunt Gretchen - Phyllis Somerville
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