Swimfan is the story of Mr. Perfect Ben Cronin (Jesse Bradford)
who is seduced by the new girl Madison Bell (Erika Christenson), rejects her, and then
she tries to ruin his life, commits some murders, etc.
I will confess right here and now that I'm just not into Erika Christenson.
As Chris said on the way out of the theater, "What's the deal with her being so fat?" Her face is
especially bad. There's just way too much of it spreading out beyond the the edge of her eyes
and cheeks. The same thing bothered me about
in Twin Peaks just
too much damn face!
But Erika is also just a tad chunkular. She's got an extra layer of padding that you
don't usually see in the movies. She kind of reminds me of
Tina Yothers from
who grew up to be too big and a little too padded to fit in with the rest of her TV family.
In fact, when I was about 11 I wrote her a letter telling her just that. I also mentioned that
she was a big loser for thinking that meeting Duran Duran was "no big deal," as she claimed in
an interview. Ingrate! Tina seems to have
turned out OK though, more or less.
But, back to the movie ...
"Swimfan" starts out by sketching out Ben's perfect life. Here are the reasons Ben is perfect:
- He is a really good swimmer.
- He has a one-dimensional really nice girlfriend, Amy (Shiri Appleby).
- He has a Jeep.
- He drives his Jeep around listening to loud music, singing along, driving semi-recklessly but
- He has a multicultural group of wisecracking friends, including Busta Rhymes (in a
bizarre cameo appearance).
But, lest we hate Ben for being so perfect, he is hastily set up with a chequered past.
As he confesses to Madison after they've known eachother about 5 minutes, Ben used to have
a drug problem, "...that turned into a stealing problem." Oooo! Badass! But, happily,
during his time in juvey he learned to swim and now he is a superstar athlete who can
amazingly swim 100 yards in under 50 seconds after about one year of training.*
Despite his badboy past, it was hard for me to like Ben. Not only was he Mr. High School
Perfect, he also
had that worldly "I've been through hell" maturity that made him seem like he was 23 rather
than 17 (maybe that's because Jesse Bradford is 23?).
I just can't like
a character who is so put together while they're still in high school. It's
implausible and offensive, and is bound to cause feelings of inadequacy in many
young viewers of Swimfan. If I had seen this movie when I was in high school, I would
probably have wondered Why aren't I normal and happy like Amy and Ben?.... Puke!
Madison Bell, the new girl who has arrived from that mysterious netherworld known as The South,
comes along to turn Ben's little world upside down. Madison is presented as if she is really
sexy, but as portrayed by Erika Christenson, she kind of reminded me of the girl
in my third grade class who wore
frilly outfits and smelled like pee. As you can imagine, I wasn't altogether convinced of
her sexiness. Her fat head and stuffed-nose voice didn't help matters.
Considering Madison's clunkiness, the seduction scene is really funny. For some reason clearly only
understood by teenage boys,
Ben, who has just told Madison that
he has a girlfriend ("it's serious"), takes her to the school pool in the middle of the night
and swims around for her to watch. Suddenly (surprise, surprise!) she's in the pool with
him, with her lacy bra on.
"I don't know how to swim," she says, "will you teach me?" (I thought
she was lying as a ploy to get frisky with Ben, but it turns out in the end that she actually
So Ben does the whole human-kickboard bit, swimming backward with Madison holding his shoulders
and acting like a real dork ("oh .. " giggle "am I doing good?").
She also looks like a big dork, what with her fat face and arms.
Soon thereafter, Ben has boinked her in the pool, she's gone nuts and is sending him 100s of
e-mails from her email address (SwimFan85@ ... well it doesn't really say where @, but I'll
assume @aol.com) with naked pictures of her fat head.
As you might expect, all turns out well in the end, with only a few dead bodies (no one important
anyway). And although Ben's girlfriend ultimately forgives him, I'm sure for years to come
a question will haunt her not Why did Ben cheat on me? but Why did Ben cheat on me
with a fat-headed girl who looked like Tina Yothers?
* Chris, who used to swim competitively, tells me that the only people he knew who
could swim 100 yards in under 50 seconds had been training since they were about 5 years old.
···>Return to Movie Reviews