"The Swimsuit Issue," is a good-natured, brightly funny if formulaic midlife-crisis story.

“The Full Monty” in soggy Spandex, “The Swimsuit Issue,” is a good-natured, brightly funny if formulaic midlife-crisis story of self-realization and courage in the face of cellulite. Likely too contrived for the arthouse and probably too Swedish for the mall, it’s also a reassuring reminder of how much in life is cyclical, from economic downturns to movie plots.

Whereas “Monty” was about manly, unemployed, Thatcherized Brits resorting to striptease, “The Swimsuit Issue” is about Swedes striving to become their country’s only male synchronized-swimming team. At the same time, it’s about the plight of being middle-aged and male: Frederik (Jonas Inde) has been fired by his female newspaper editor; his ex-wife is more successful than he is; and his teenage daughter, Sara (Amanda Davin) holds him in contempt. He and his floorball teammates — still resting on the laurels of a 20-year-old championship — get bumped off all the available court space because they’re not kids, female or handicapped.

Significantly, when they do find success, it’s in drag: Tarting themselves up for a friend’s bachelor party, they perform a swishy swim routine that’s so hilariously inept, a wealthy guest hires them to perform at her birthday party. It’s a gig that goes horribly wrong.

But rather than either give up or pursue a promising transvestite career, the group is convinced by Frederik to get serious about their swimming and go to the world championships in Berlin. They’re a motley crew, with limited water skills, no visible means of buoyancy and a certain embarrassment about doing what they do: One member, Victor (Peter Gardiner) — significantly, the only black teammate — reveals a strain of homophobia when the group is invited to perform as part of a gay-pride weekend. The payoff in the final reels, though, is unexpectedly emotional.

The script by helmer Mans Herngren, Jane Magnusson and Brian Cordray ventures into some rather unfunny, potentially controversial and, one would have assumed, very un-Swedish territory — namely, institutionalized prejudice against men of a certain age. While all the women in “The Swimsuit Issue” seem to have it more together than the men (Sara saves the men more than once), the women also seem to think themselves aggrieved, and that the marginalization of the movie’s main characters is some kind of political achievement. It’s fairly thorny stuff, and while not exactly obsessed over, it does give the film a certain sting.

Production values are top-notch, especially Henrik Stenberg’s cinematography in often limited light.

The Swimsuit Issue



A Fladen Film presentation, in association with Nordisk Film, Gadda Five, Zentropa Entertainments Berlin, Filmpool Stockholm-Malardalen. (International sales: Trust Film Sales, Denmark.) Produced by Rebecka Hamberger. Directed by Mans Herngren. Screenplay, Herngren, Jane Magnusson, Brian Cordray.


Camera (color, widescreen), Henrik Stenberg; editor, Fredrik Morheden; music, the Soundtrack of Our Lives; production designers, Mikael Varhelyi, Linda Janson; costume designer, Jaana Fomin, choreographer, Roine Soderlundh; casting, Imor Hermann. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Center, Manhattan, April 5, 2009. (In Tribeca Film Festival -- Discovery.) Running time: 98 MIN.


Jonas Inde, Amanda Davin, Peter Gardiner, Benny Haag, Jimmy Lindström, Andreas Rothlin Svensson, Dietrich Hollinderbäumer, Ia Langhammer.
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