The promise and specter of a better movie—better acted, better explored, better delivered—is all we’re left with.
A Swingers Weekend, a low-budget Canadian comedy from director Jon E. Cohen, centers on the timely subject of non-monogamy and polyamory, focusing on a group of friends comprised of three vanilla couples who find themselves at various stages of maturity, happiness and sexual proclivity. Lisa (Erin Karpluk) and Dan (Randal Edwards) are successful working professionals who appear to have it all; Skai (Erin Agostino) and TJ (Michael Xavier) are only a few months into their relationship and are riding an infectious wave of sexual chemistry; and Geoffrey (Jonas Chernick) and Fiona (Mia Kirshner) are deep in a rut, feeling the weight of parenting and financial instability. When they all come together for the title festivities, a wide array of fears, insecurities, hidden animosities and personal hang-ups are brought to the fore.
For a film about adventurous sex, A Swingers Weekend isn’t even remotely erotic, which actually works to its benefit. The prospect of six people on varying emotional and sexual wavelengths coming together for a three-day bone session has comedic potential, and Cohen, alongside his co-screenwriter Nicola Sammeroff, drives home plenty of anxious and neurotic humor. Swinging requires being comfortable with you and your significant other sleeping with other people, but most of the characters here are deeply uncomfortable with themselves, in general, which lends pathos to the film’s farcical framework. The situations feel real and sympathetic, and they probably unfold a lot like they would in real life, full of self-loathing and embarrassment and the debilitating feeling of “well, this seemed like a good idea at the time.” Throughout the script, Cohen and Sammeroff don’t always aim for the easy joke. The story hinges on the dynamic interpersonal relationships between the characters, not necessarily the awkward forays into unfamiliar sexual spaces, like the kind of stuff you’d see in an American Pie movie. The screenwriters mine the high stakes of opening up a monogamous relationship while also searching for the underlying angst of long-term, partnered romanticism.
The problem, however, is that for all their searching, Cohen and Sammeroff don’t locate anything insightful, memorable or worthwhile to share. Because the plot is so basic and single-note, they introduce a series of sitcom-level shenanigans to keep the story moving, none of which prove interesting or capricious, nor do they illuminate any of the film’s core themes. They’re mostly just confusing and half-formed. There are double-crosses, “Three’s Company”-esque misunderstandings, ulterior motives and plenty of wild (as in, wildly far-fetched) misdirections; someone has a secret pop music career, someone else is trying to leverage a yoga business for babies and another person gets a disgusting and completely unexplained rash on their forehead. References are made to scenes that either went unfilmed or were cut for time, and while it’s possible Cohen tried to generate ambiguity and intrigue by leaving certain things to the viewer’s imagination, it doesn’t change the fact that not much about A Swingers Weekend makes sense by the end credits. The promise and specter of a better movie—better acted, better explored, better delivered—is all we’re left with.