FILM REVIEW: Swinging with the Finkles (15)

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Jonathan Newman’s romantic comedy of modern relationship woes is like a blind date from hell.

A potentially amorous rendezvous, which begins with nervous anticipation, quickly degenerates into inane conversation, stifled yawns and despairing glances at the watch.

The 84-minute running time seems considerably longer as writer-director Newman’s plodding script lurches from one toe-curling set-up to the next, all orbiting the centre-piece sequence of ill-advised partner-swapping promised by the title.

Swinging With The Finkels is populated by thinly sketched characters, who are destined to fall in and out of love simply because the script tells them to.

There is no palpable screen chemistry between the actors and when one of the leads is asked to summon a deluge of tears to convey her wife’s heartbreak, the make-up department comes to her rescue with exaggerated streaks of running mascara.

Early in the film, one of the male protagonists asks, “How do you stay married to someone and not get bored?”, and we sigh under our breath, “Don’t take your wife to see this film.”

You’re unlikely to see a more lifeless or joyless British film all year.

Martin Finkel (Martin Freeman) and his wife Sarah (Mandy Moore) are stuck in a rut and clueless about reinvigorating their stagnant marriage.

Best friend Peter (Jonathan Silverman) and his lactating wife, Janet (Melissa George), are no use since he’s about to confess to an affair.

So fashion designer Sarah turns to her gay assistant, Andrew (Edward Akrout), who suggests she follow his example and sleeps around.

“I think we should see another couple... swap... swing,” Sarah nervously suggests to Martin, who eventually agrees to the bizarre idea to get the marriage back on track.

Richard (Angus Deayton) and his wife Clementine (Daisy Beaumont) fit the bill and the Finkels break their vows of fidelity in the hope that forbidden passion will provide the missing spark.

Swinging With The Finkels shoehorns two laughs into almost an hour and a half of awkward silence: a one-liner involving Tim Henman and an obvious pun on the name of the feisty nurse at a sex clinic.

The rest of Newman’s film is a drag, punctuated by a tawdry interlude with Sarah and a salad vegetable from the fridge, which predictably coincides with the unexpected arrival of her grandparents (Jerry Stiller, Beverley Klein).

The writer-director bookmarks each chapter with pithy on-screen captions such as “Men and women come from different planets. Unfortunately they both live on Earth.”

These are more amusing that anything blurted out by the characters as they stumble through the wreckage of their lives.

Freeman and Moore are naturally likeable performers but they are powerless to make us care a jot about the disrepair of Martin and Sarah’s marriage.

The resolution of all the heartache is sickly and hopelessly contrived.

By Damon Smith

:: SWEARING :: SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 3/10

Released: June 17 (UK & Ireland), 84 mins