Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Cocktails first, questions later

Swingers. How can I not love a flick that's all about the 90s lounge scene in LA? Even better, the characters are set up to be a modern Rat Pack. Also? Vince Vaughn.

Written by Jon Favreau and introducing us to the motormouthed tall cool one -- who even at the dewey young age of 26 already wore his eye bags like a true designer accessory -- Swingers remains one of the funniest and most quotable flicks in Vaughn and Favreau's repertoire. Set mostly in LA and chronicling how a group of friends try to get a lovesick wannabe actor back into the social swing by lounging around, this probably doesn't qualify as a full-fledged Vegas movie.

Except it does. It does qualify because the Vegas trip is -- wait for it, you know it's coming -- so money!

The beauty of great Vegas flicks is that they can capture not just scenery but also the ambience of a particular place and time. And since Vegas is so rapidly changing, those settings that can seem so grotesquely iconic can be demolished and replaced within a matter of years. Such is the fate for the setting of Swingers at the now defunct Stardust.

The Stardust was a giant, neon, purple nightmare. And it was the perfect fucking choice to put Jon and Vince and let them do their thing at the blackjack tables. There was a retro-vibe to the place by '96, which made it somewhat hip in its squareness.

It was home for an older generation, but the younger kids would hang out there with both a smirky irony and genuine affinity for the throwback vibe. In other words, it wasn't really a place to be taken seriously -- much like Vegas on the whole. Not a serious place, but sometimes a fun one. And it fit perfectly with the movie's loungey milieu and as a way of juxtaposing the outrageousness of Vince's wannabe hipster flagrance to the contrast of the old woman they end up playing with when they get busted out of the bigger money game.

Reportedly, they didn't even have permits for shooting in the casino, and yet security let them finish shooting before escorting them out. That's Vegas, alright. Or, it was Vegas in '96 at the Stardust. Just as annoyingly Vegas -- how the old woman screws the rules and odds, hits her seventeen -- and wins! AND wins the comps they'd so wanted. And the cocktail waitress hookup is just classic.

Still don't believe that one small slice of a movie can make it a Vegas classic? This is all there is to say: "Vegas, baby! Vegas!"

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