Swinging with the Finkels (review)

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Mandy Moore and Martin Freeman in Swinging with the Finkels

I love Martin Freeman, I really do, but what the hell is this shit? The man has been Arthur Dent and Dr. John Watson and will soon be Bilbo freakin’ Baggins himself… and here he lets himself be called Alvin Finkel in an excruciatingly wrongheaded and outdated “sex comedy” that treats women like mysterious creatures from the depths of the Victorian age and marriage like an extended standup routine from the 1970s: Men and women are from different planets, amirite? And why do women always have a headache, anyway? Damn, I even feel sorry for Mandy Moore (Tangled) as Ellie Finkel, because even though she does nothing but deploy a widening of the eyes and a slackening of the jaw and calls it acting, she is forced to engage in a parody of female sexuality that pretends it exists only for the benefit of men. You won’t laugh but you will cry as Ellie discovers masturbation for the first time — as if! — and is punished for it with interruption — by her grandparents! — and humiliations galore. (There was a cucumber involved, see, and afterward there’s like salads everywhere to remind Mawmaw and Pop-pop what they walked in on. Oy!) The Finkels of London are in a rut (a woman wouldn’t need to jill off otherwise, amirite?) and decide to try swinging as a way to break free. For those of you who haven’t seen The Ice Storm and didn’t live through the era of bell-bottoms, swingers swap spouses for a break from the routine. Cue the “hilarious” parade of “abnormal” couples the Finkels interview in their search for a “decent” swap; it’s “funny” cuz, as we all know, there’s a very narrow range of acceptable human sexuality, and it mostly involves boring straight people who don’t even know how to masturbate. By all means, come for the juvenile terror of sex; stay for the hoary clichés — onscreen placards will alert you to which ones you can expect next. The random grossouts and obnoxious ethnic stereotypes are just extra bonuses. Bestworst bit: writer-director Jonathan Newman is reallytruly hoping that by having his couples talk to the camera, you will be charmed in a When Harry Met Sally way. You won’t. Ugh.

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