Posted: 04/05/2002




by Coco Delgado

Lauren Ambrose gets a meaty role worthy of the type of work seen on HBO’s Six Feet Under.

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Frankie Wheeler wears an amber pendant which she never takes off. And like the bits of prehistoric debris trapped within her jewelry, Frankie, too, feels like she’ll never escape. For her, the resort town of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is the tree sap that’s keeping her from being who she wants to be. Or is it? For while she plays the dutiful daughter and sister, running her retired parents’ beachside burger joint with her brother Neil, she has a very strong sense of who she is.

Frankie (Lauren Ambrose - Six Feet Under) is the person we all think we are: not as attractive, or amusing, or sexy, or self-possessed as everyone else in the world, just an ordinary person trying to find a place in the world. Her friend since forever, Nicola, owns her own piercing shop and sees being the center of attention as her due, and Frankie seems happy enough being her satellite. But when the beautiful Josee shows up and gets Neil to hire her to work in the restaurant, the fact that she notices and befriends Frankie causes instant conflict. Then there’s Heath, an itinerant T-shirt selling Texan who also notices Frankie. And Frankie, a loner who hates being alone, needs to decide who she really wants to keep in her life.

The name of the film is Swimming. This is a small, quirky little movie. It’s as much about the silences as it is about the words. Not a lot actually happens in the film, really, but there’s so much going on, little things, the sorts of things we all have going on, that it feels comfortably busy. It feels real. There’s Nicola’s one-night-stand turned boyfriend, for example, who has an imaginary friend. Which is fine with her, up to a point. There’s Frankie’s sister in law and her nephews, always around in the background. There are the other characters, the kind of people we pass every day on our way to work, who appear in this movie in much the same way: we nod at them, perhaps wave and smile, but that’s as far as we go.

At the end of it, while Frankie’s learned a bit about herself, and her family, and her friends…there are really no earth-shattering revelations, no dramatic rendez-vous with destiny. Much like real life, things simply change. They don’t necessarily get better, or worse…they just get different. At the end, as at the beginning, Frankie talks about leaving Myrtle Beach. She says she’ll miss the ocean, she’ll miss not being able to go swimming whenever she feels like it…yet, she’s never seen even wearing shorts, let alone doing more than wading…and it makes you wonder if perhaps, she really doesn’t want to leave at all.

One last thing that bears mentioning: The soundtrack. It’s amazing. It’s an eclectic collection of independent/alternative pop (I guess you’d call it; I’ve given up trying to label music anymore), and each song blends into the scene with which it is matched feeling almost like it was written for that particular scene. I have to point this out because, so often, movie music seems so perfunctory, added almost as an afterthought.

Coco Delgado is a writer who always sits in the front row. For fun she moves to different cities, which have included Montreal, San Francisco and Atlanta. This year it’s she watches film in L.A. and looks for latte.

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