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The Hartford Advocate

Rites of passage in a tourist trap
Three and a half Stars
By John Boonstra

Small but pretty darned good: Robert Siegel's Swimming, making the festival rounds for the past couple of years, finally achieves limited arthouse release thanks to the boomlet of celebrity recently attached to its star, Lauren Ambrose, currently seen as the teen-aged daughter on HBO's superb Six Feet Under.

She's quite good here as Frankie, an unhappy gal who runs a seaside restaurant along South Carolina's Myrtle Beach. The brother, who is several years older, treats her like hired help. Her best friend (Jennifer Dundas) is a tongue-pierced, tattooed hotshot who has no trouble flinging herself at the opposite sex, but Frankie is far too reticent to mimic her behavior. Enter Josee (Joelle Carter), a new waitress and worldclass sexual predator who puts Frankie's friend to shame. Much of what ensues is a delicate dance as Josee sends conflicting sexual signals to almost every man she meets, and, almost as an afterthought, to Frankie, who's plainly entranced by Josee's wicked ways.

Performances are persuasive, and much of the effectiveness here comes from the gaps an audience is left to fill in. Swimming isn't for everyone; plenty will find it meandering and precious. But fans of Ambrose will eat it up with a tablespoon, and those with a soft spot for plausible rite-of-passage dramas will understand that this is a movie which always makes real-world choices for its sometimes prickly characters.

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