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Santa Barbara Independent

"If My Big Fat Greek Wedding can be a mega-hit, Swimming should rule art houses for years to come."
August 22, 2002
D.J. Palladino

Unfortunately in this world, small miracle films don’t just happen. Swimming, a total pleasure, gained distribution only after its star Lauren Ambrose justly attained fame on HBO’s Six Feet Under. Made two years ago, it played the festival circuit, including our own. Ambrose’s rising star has boosted it into theaters, and you should take the plunge, too: It’s a touching, unpredictable, and sweet endeavor. Swimming may strike you as being almost a number of things, though. It’s sort of a contemporary coming-of-age story; nearly a lesbian date film; and a kind of a wised-up summer-of-fun movie. Yet it triumphs by neatly evading all these cul de sacs. It’s a portrait of a young woman poised to become whole, and the iffy film forms echo the subject.

Ambrose plays Frankie—called Francis only by her older brother with whom she shares ownership of a Myrtle Beach hamburger joint. She’s red-haired in a shapeless sort of way, tomboyish in overalls and T-shirts, yet her skin is a tone of alabaster that suggests the pre-Raphaelite model underneath, and her expression is X-ray cool when not inscrutably moody. We first meet Frankie on the day before tourist season hits, cleaning rags and dreaming about owning a car, hoping for some kind of transcendence. By the end of the film, she’s glowing against a cheaply painted laundromat wall, but still fantasizing mobility. She dresses more femininely, but her personality has grown a shade tougher. If anything, she learns to take destiny a bit more in hand.

The rest of the cast is first rate, from the little kids to the marginalized children of the beach town’s rather wild nights. (You can practically smell daiquiris and Coppertone in the air.) Director Robert Siegel is no newcomer, though his last film was made in 1983. The film is sexy and understated fun. Perhaps the feature marketplace is corruptibly formulaic, but this movie is not. If My Big Fat Greek Wedding can be a mega-hit, Swimming should rule art houses for years to come.

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