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Lauren Ambrose's performance in "Swimming" single-handedly redeems Outfest 2000

Lauren Ambrose, The Star of Swimming
"It was the definition of supportive film-making; it was like an actor's dream"
Gay Boy Ric
July 2000

I had an unusual experience watching Swimming.

One hour into the film, I stopped for a moment and went to my press notes to find out who the actress was that was giving such an incredible performance. Not having recognized her, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that she was Lauren Ambrose, the same actress that I'd seen only a week earlier as the lead in another Outfest film, Psycho Beach Party.

Lauren Ambrose, Swimming
Lauren Ambrose
I also discovered that Ambrose's talent and ability to fully inhabit a character is such that Law and Order has asked her back three times - to play three entirely different characters. No wonder I hadn't recognized her.

In Swimming, directed by veteran director Robert J. Siegel, Ambrose plays Frankie, a shy young tomboy who lives in the sexually-heated vacation town of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The arrival of Josee (Joelle Carter), a sexy blonde, injects conflict and uncertainty into Frankie's otherwise placid emotional existence. Josee demonstrates a sexual and emotional attraction to Frankie - culminating in an intimate bedtime kiss - but she also confuses Frankie by going out with her brother. Over the course of the movie, Josee's subtly manipulative nature provokes Frankie to discover her dormant ability to make decisions and take actions on her own behalf.

The Hollywood Reporter noted that "Ambrose is excellent (while being) on screen for most of the film's 90 minutes," while Variety said her performance "gives the drama a solid, sympathetic anchor."

A classically trained singer, Lauren chose to forego college in order to pursue acting. Her first major role was Kevin Kline's student in In and Out.

Soon after, she landed the lead in the high school comedy Can't Hardly Wait, in which she played an intellectual rebel who falls for a goofy Seth Green.

The leads in Psycho Beach Party and Swimming soon followed.

Interestingly (and somewhat untypical of most young actors just starting out), Ambrose has enough self-confidence to confortably attribute most of the credit for her performance in Swimming to director Siegel.

"Swimming was a really interesting acting exercise," she said, "because I'm in almost every single frame of that movie, but I think I probably have the least amount of dialogue of anyone in the movie. It was a performance that had a lot to do with looks and walking and being able to tell a story and convey someone's inner life without a lot of words."

"When I saw it at Slamdance, it had been quite a while since we had made it, and I was so shocked and so amazed - and so humbled and wonderfully surprised. Because it really is such a sensitive movie, and that's because Bob Siegel just had so much control over his film and hired all the right people. I think it was the definition of supportive film-making; it was like an actor's dream. I was doing all this stuff, what I thought was right, and he just had all the right people - the right editor, the right director of photography - to catch it."

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