by Amy Steele
Swimming is a quietly provocative film about small towns, big dreams and the ties that bind. Kindhearted tomboy Frankie (Lauren Ambrose) finds herself when she becomes torn between her outspoken best friend Nicola (Jennifer Dundas) and new people in town�a cute waitress Josee (Joelle Carter) and a hippie dude. As sexual tension rises, friendship and family remain the true anchors of this sweet little film. Swimming could have easily drowned in its predictability, but with a talented cast it rises above clich�d sexual ambiguity and small town nature.
With an impressive resume and an Ivy League degree in film, Newton-native Jennifer Dundas steals scenes in Swimming. As Nicola, Dundas is a layered character who brings spice to this coming-of-age saga. Rather out-there, yet insecure about many things, Nicola pulls Frankie along for a wild ride. For someone who usually plays conservative roles, this departure proves refreshing. "She's kind of lost and insecure, but she doesn't censor herself," Dundas said by phone from upstate New York. "She's out there with her feelings and regrets it sometimes, but she's fun. The character is very different than any other character I've played. She's coming out of me at some level. I took a certain aspect and magnified it."
After attending a summer arts program, a 10-year-old Dundas got her break at the American Repertory Theater. With the help of an agent, Dundas secured roles in Hotel New Hampshire, Legal Eagles and Mrs. Soffel as a teenager. She attended Newton North, Milton Academy, and then Brown University. "There was a great program at Brown but not a conservatory. Most stuff I learned hands on. It's not a method I'm conscious of, but put together through experience. If I hadn't been fortunate, I still would have had opportunities in Boston. There are a lot of theaters in Boston doing good work that you could get involved in as a kid."
During her role in the upcoming film, Changing Lanes Mr. Success Story Ben Affleck recognized Dundas and said he had admired her when he was younger because she had some big breaks. Dundas proves breaking out of Boston can be done. She still maintains her New England sensibilities, dislikes Los Angeles and prefers New York as a home base.
"If you find your niche in New York, it's something one should not give up easily," she explained, referring to her successful theater career. Currently, she can be seen onstage with Dan Futterman [Urbania] and Peter Gerety [Homicide] in the Manhattan Theater Club's Further than the Furthest Thing. Dundas derives more satisfaction from her theater roles than her movie roles, but enjoyed the repertory feel of Swimming. "We [the cast] had great fun and a feeling of community. It was a great group of people. The crew was not too huge and everyone was in their twenties."
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