Film Review: Swinging with the Finkels

Likeable leads can’t save this dreary sex comedy.

The title, Swinging with the Finkels, tells you everything you need to know about this small-scale offering about two young people who yearn for sex outside their marriage. Despite the titillating premise, audiences will catch wind of bad word of mouth and stay away.

After seven years of marriage, the London-based Finkels, American fashion designer Ellie (Mandy Moore) and British architect Alvin (Martin Freeman), are feeling “the itch.” Attempts to spice up their sex lives with dress-up encounters and odd masturbation exercises fail to make a difference. Finally, Ellie suggests the idea of “swinging” (i.e., wife-swapping). They select Richard (Angus Deayton) and Clementine (Daisy Beaumont) as their partners and, during the awkward first date, the foursome eventually make the fatal swap.

Yet adultery, even with the permissions, fails to improve the Finkels’ sex life with each other, causing a rift in the marriage. They even separate for a while. After some time apart, husband and wife realize there was more to their marriage than they had acknowledged when they were together.

Apparently, “swinging” is back—or maybe it never left—but Swinging with the Finkels seems as retro, while not as funny, as both the major (Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, 1969) and minor (A Little Sex, 1982) efforts it emulates. The silly sex jokes are expected. The “morning after” regrets are even more obvious (making the second half of the film particularly slow-paced and unfunny). And, except for one tiny twist, the ending is most predictable of all. What is surprising is the number of insensitive racial jokes. They seem to come of out nowhere, given the film’s emphasis on gender and sexual issues. Director Jonathan Newman has no one to blame but himself, since he also wrote the script.

At least the stars help greatly to make Finkels otherwise painless. Attractive former pop singer Mandy Moore portrays Ellie as sweet and sympathetic, despite the character’s selfish near-obsession with her mostly nonexistent sex life. Freeman (soon to be seen in a series of Hobbit movies) grounds the film with a Jack Lemmon-style everyman presence. He even makes the tiresome dialogue sparkle, as if he were performing classic Neil Simon or Woody Allen. Unfortunately, most of the members of the supporting cast overplay their bits and contribute little. (One exception is Deayton as Ellie’s unlikely and slightly obnoxious swapping “date.”)

The tech credits are just okay. The musical compositions consist of bland pop and syrupy underscoring.

Swinging with the Finkels
is not quite as bad as some reviews have said, but neither is it a romantic comedy classic.