You wouldn't think a movie could show us anything new about bored, restless small-town girls looking to get out. But in Swimming, writer-director Robert J. Siegel finds virgin territory, in more ways than one. Set in the summer resort town of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Swimming's deglamorized depiction of hardworking locals just making ends meet seems refreshing in this summer of Blue Crush. Heck, next to these working-class heroines, even the gals of Mystic Pizza had it cushy. But what really makes Swimming float is its trio of female characters, who are just a little too quirky and complicated to fit any of the usual girls-just-want-to-have-fun molds.
Frankie (Six Feet Under's Ambrose) is a sullenly unsure-of-herself teen who waits tables at the boardwalk burger joint she and her older brother inherited from their retired parents. Frankie's horny best friend, spiky bleached-blond Nicola (lowe), runs the body-piercing parlor next door, and her other friend is new waitress Josee (Carter), a free-spirited hottie who dates a lifeguard, but whose offhand affections for Frankie make Nicola jealous. Josee's arrival isn't the only event that shakes up Frankie's dead-end life.
As it settles into the lazy rhythms of Frankie's day-to-day routine, the movie stays blessedly free of pat Hollywood plotting as Frankie's vague longings and discontentments slowly rise to the surface stirred up by romances and friendships that might not last past the summer. Still, these new relationships - including a tentative flirtation with a new-hippie (Jamie Harrold) who sells tie-dyed T-shirts from his van - quietly inspire Frankie. Gradually, she changes, or at least begins to believe she can. Ambrose registers these dawning revelations with some exquisitely subtle shifts in facial expression and body language; Frankie visibly blossoms. The movie makes a point of gently indicating that her life is going to be different from now on, but it didn't have to. You can tell just by looking at her.
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