Swimfan Recap

Ben Cronin is a swimming god with a totally dope girlfriend so what could go wrong? How ‘bout a new girl in town ready to turn his life upside down. When it turns out that she’s totally cray he’s like WTF and tries to bounce. But, uh oh! She’s like, now way and gets even crazier. Can he kill her (seriously, that’s what happens) before it’s too late? Find out in… Swimfan.

How?! Ben Cronin is the man. He can swim like he’s in the Olympics, he has a gf that’s totally into him, and he’s got cargo pants for days. Nothing can ruin him life now, especially with Stanford scouts coming to town for the big meet, right? Wrong. He meets the new girl in town, Madison, and is immediately intrigued. He’s like “maybe I can just hang out with her and definitely not bone her in the pool.” This turns out to be a mistake because they definitely immediately bone in the pool. Realizing that that wasn’t the best move in the world he tries to distance himself from Madison, but she ain’t having it. But instead of revealing the dirtbag move to his girlfriend, Madison is unfortunately insane and begins to ruin his life piece by piece. After she gets him to fail a drug test, kills his best frenemy, and runs his girlfriend off the road (in an attempt to frame him for her murder), Ben decides that enough is enough. He tricks her into confessing on camera and gets her arrested. Phew. That must be the end. But not so fast, the edge of your seat is about to get a bit more worn, because Madison escapes from the police and kidnaps Ben’s girlfriend. He tracks her to the pool where she attempts to murder his girlfriend, but instead inadvertently falls into the pool. In a stroke of irony, despite her well known swim fandom, she never learned to swim and ends up drowning while Ben saves his girlfriend. Realizing that she’s all that he really wants, Ben leaves the world of competitive swimming behind… or does he? Bum bum bum… he does. THE END. 

Why?! The question we all are asking. Ben is on the verge of getting a swimming scholarship to Stanford and his girlfriend (who along with swimming he credits with saving him from a life of drugs and crime) is ready to join him. Life seems pretty sweet, but we get a hint that he’s not so sure he really wants his girlfriend following him to college. Now this is somewhat reasonable. Perhaps he’s just not sure that such a drastic move is prudent given their age. Or perhaps he fears she’s sacrificing her dreams just to be close and feels bad about that. Regardless, we don’t really get much clarity on this other than that he must feel really strongly about it because he immediately goes off and bangs the new girl in the pool in a stunning act of self-sabotage. Normally this would just result in him losing his girlfriend and perhaps a lackluster performance in the pool (swimming, not sexual obviously. That seemed to go… swimmingly), but unfortunately Madison’s motivation is that she’s a crazy swimfan (née baseballfan).

Who?! No less than 25 Special Thanks credits given out on this film. There must have been a massive rewrite or reshoot on this because there are composers, writers, producers, editors, etc. that get Special Thanks on this. So perhaps they had a cut where they really explored Ben’s motivation but then they were like “It’s called Swimfan, not CharacterDevelopmentFan, OK?” and got rid of that shit.

What?! It is actually mentioned in a book about product placement as a target for some newer sources (outside of the typical beverages, cars, clothing, etc.). That included some Apple products (which hadn’t previously done a lot of placement) and a mention of Viagra (a rare pharmaceutical product placement). I really dug into that because I assumed there wouldn’t be any Swimfan props for sale. Boy was I wrong. Anyone want to dress as Jesse Bradford at his hospital job wearing his bronze swimming medal? Yeah me neither, totally unrealistic. Ben Cronin don’t get third.

Where?! Fun New Jersey setting. Very specific and with license plates everywhere. Not vital to the plot other than to make Stanford seem very far away and I guess maybe to have NYC close enough to make Madison seem somewhat big city exotic (with a boyfriend drafted by the Mets to boot). But still a solid B+.

When?! Hard work always pays off and originally I didn’t think you get an exact date on this one. Wrong! When Ben is casually browsing world record swim times on the interweb just before he gets the first of many creepy messages from swimfan85 we see that the website was updated on May 7th, 2001. Assuming that our boy Ben is only using the best resources to check up on his world record aspirations we can assume that the film takes place around that time. B+ because I love it so much.

I was pretty jazzed for this film. Who wouldn’t be? And while I enjoyed it for its complete devotion to the swimfan aspect of it (and the lack of interest in exploring the characters in any other way) it was otherwise pretty formulaic. She is crazy almost immediately and we proceed almost straight to her getting murdered in a pool (or maybe murder isn’t the right word. He just kinda lets her drown in the pool while saving his girlfriend… so it’s more a tragic accident, I guess). If I had to point to something that I really liked about it I think I would say pretty much everything that Jesse Bradford wears in the film. There were multiple times where I stopped the movie and was just like “what is he wearing?” So many baggy jeans, a cargo pants sighting, and some ill-fitting leather jacket ensembles… it’s almost impossible to pick my favorite of the bunch. Patrick? 


‘Ello everyone! Daaaaaaaaaaaang, I got all into swimming shape and now I have this scary swimfan stalking me. Whoops! Let’s get into it!

P’s View on the Preview – Jesse Bradford. I needed to know exactly how dreamy his eyes are. More seriously though it occurred to me while watching the trailer that this was a weird time where they were making erotic thrillers … but for like teenagers? That seems like a bad look. But Cruel Intentions (and its straight-to-DVD sequels) and this are an intriguing trend. My expectations for the film: I had to think long and hard about what would make me love this film. I decided that it needed to be over the top crazy. Jesse needed to think he was going insane, and they needed to dial the thrills up to 11. He had to kill her at the end of the film, he had to be forced to kill her in order to get his life back! I was all in at this point and ready to be sorely disappointed.

The Good – They definitely had some thrills. And they definitely ruined Bradford’s life and made him think that he was going crazy. The film is ludicrous enough that I was engaged throughout and it ultimately worked for me. The woman who played the girlfriend was solid, really plays the good girlfriend type well. And they gave a lot more depth to Bradford’s character than I expected, I was actually getting a little worked up about his life getting ruined.

The Bad – Which is also kind of my biggest problem with the film. The formula for an erotic thriller like this is pretty simple: have a kind of trashy guy attract a femme fatale, his life gets mixed up, he is convinced he is going to die or go to prison, and then … the psycho dies and everything is going to be okay. With a teenager though? His life is pretty irreversibly screwed (at least tangibly worse) the instant he is doped with steroids. I doubt a serious college program would consider him (despite his dope times, because they would think they were dope doped times). And that upset me. If things were a little more minor, or they gave him a less melancholy ending I think this would be a personal favorite. But with the stress I was under it brings it down a notch. Also the acting is pretty rough with only the exception of the girlfriend. Also, no offense, but the femme fatale is not hot enough to warrent the craze all the dudes have for her … seriously no offense, but she should have been like insane hot. Even like … a teacher maybe? Whatever, you can see by how much I’ve written just how much I care about this film. It is tearing me up inside!

The BMT – I think this is a fine BMT, as a matter of fact I think this will be looked upon fondly as a starting point for me differentiating the very specific teen erotic thriller as a minor genre of the late 90s and early 00s. There are plenty of things I wish it had done better to really push it over the top, but all of those are forgivable in the face of Jesse Bradford’s dreamy eyes. Today, we are all swimfans. Did it meet my expectations? Yes, but only half way. As I’ve said, I think I underestimated how unpleasant it felt to see a young person ruin their lives rather than an adult who mostly has it coming (hoisted by their own petard as it is). But the thrills were cranked up, and he thought he was going crazy, and he did kill her in the end, so it did check all of the boxes.

Roastradamus – The only product placement I can remember was the fact that Bradford very obviously drives a Ford truck. It is only set in New Jersey in a very minor sense. Is the Stanford swimming scout a MacGuffin? … no not really. I will say that Worst Twist (How?) is a credible option with Bradford (and friends) entrapping Madison Bell with the ol’ secret video tape trick. But much like everything about this film … it kind of half asses all of the categories and is unlikely to earn any of them. It does have a good shot at BMT as a nominee though, that is probably the best bet.

StreetCreditReport.com – I am genuinely shocked. I couldn’t find a single yearly list that includes it. I couldn’t find a worst of sports list that includes it. The only list I could find was a Buzzfeed article about unintentionally hilarious teen films. If you could make a list of worst ever swimming films it should probably make it … but it also might be the only film on the list. Very surprising, I figured some sports film list would include it due to its trashiness.

You Just Got Schooled – And how could I watch Swimfan without watching the original classic, Fatal Attraction? This movie was 100 times better than Swimfan. It is a true thriller. I was thrilled throughout, on tenterhooks during every slow pan as tension built. It is one of the best films I’ve ever seen to bridge the thriller / horror gap, as I often found myself horrified (in contrast to most creature features which are vanilla thrillers in my opinion). Dougles, Close and Archer are all amazing, and unlike Swimfan it manages to build the story without just ruining Douglas’ life which I appreciated. I think this finally made me understand why Swimfan just got dunked on by critics, they must have looked at Swimfan and been like “oh, so it’s Fatal Attraction except with bad acting and 100x worse and a garbage story? One star”. As a kind-of adaptation Swimfan is officially an F, it doesn’t even deserve to be in the conversation with Fatal Attraction. Oh no … do I hate Swimfan now? No, never! I will always love you Swimfan with your sexy downtrodden Jesse Bradford!


The Sklogs


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