Swinging with the Finkels' director, Jonathon Newman, reminds me of a particularly heinous breed of middle class acquaintance. The specific sub-genre of this species that Newman imitates with such accuracy is the lesser-spotted Farmers Market pervert. The lesser-spotted Famers Market pervert hoards the finest, most expensive ingredients: organic, free-range, with added bird placenta for authenticity; then on inviting you to his lavishly swathed abode for dinner, cooks you up the most expensive, well-intentioned crap you've ever had the misfortune of putting in your mouth. You smile, you nod, you agree that the ingredients are very fine... but you'd still rather be served Iceland's finest hamster korma by Stacey Soloman herself than return for more.
Newman has sourced the finest Brit-flick ingredients on offer at the kooky filmmaker's market: a slice of Mandy Moore, a joint of Martin Freeman, sprinkled with Angus Deayton's naked bottom and Jerry Stiller's aged chuckles. But Swinging with the Finkels slow cooks this stellar cast into predictable, distasteful, cliched slop.
Opening, in fact, on the sun-drenched sights of Borough Market, Alvin Finkel (Yes, Alvin Finkel. No, America, we don't all have names that sound like the love child of a chipmunk and a nursery rhyme in Enlgand, honest.) shops for morsels to bring home to his wife Ellie. Despite Ellie's quaffed Hollywood beauty sky rocketing her straight to the Premier League, while Alvin dribbles about in the relegation zone of League two, he is disenchanted with their seven-year marriage. As it turns out, so is she. I don't blame them either; despite some serious brownie points for their interior décor- which borders on being less homely, more Homes and Gardens (where DO these people get their money from? The Bank of Richard Curtis?)- the Finkels are as dull as seven-year dishwater.
So, like every other 'wild', 'cutting edge', middle class couple on the big screen, they decide to spice things up a bit in the bedroom to save their floundering marriage. After a string of bad advice from colleagues so homosexually stereotyped they're as dated as a mullet on a Wham! Cover, Louie Spence erupts on to the screen in a burst of hot pink and sexual beleaguerment, like Paris Hilton's Chihuahua on heat. Spence's cameo as the catalyst for the Finkel's swinging is the pivotal moment in this movie. I could put up with the odd clichéd gag, grotesque misuse of cucumbers in the bedroom, entire scenes reliant upon the viewer finding breast milk pumps hilarious contraptions, but what I cannot stand for is being force-fed any more Louie Spence in a world already over-saturated with this screen-grabbing glitterslut. From here on in, the trajectory takes a decidedly downward slope. After a sort of X factor for kinky copulaters, the actual swinging part of Swinging with the Finkels, like an unsatisfactory shag, lasts a depressingly short time. No prizes for guessing the moral lessons learnt, the inevitable slushy denouement, or which quasi-celebrity is now top of my 'To Kill' list.
The phrase 'British Sex Comedy' strikes terror into the hearts of most people; we are after all a nation of stiff upper lips, closed doors, and coined the phrase 'Lie back and think of England'. However, armed with the talents of Freeman and Moore- who are a veritable tour de force of charm, topped with a healthy dose of three dimensional character development towards the end of the film- Newman should be able to make a better job of this tricky genre than he does. The script isn't utterly devoid of laughs- a trip to the sexual health clinic to see 'Urethra Franklin' was a chuckle inducing highlight- but it fails to deliver a fully rounded narrative, is paced too slowly, and ends up not really doing what it says on the tin. If by Swinging with the Finkels, Newman means having a placid, friendly game of golf (which they do, frequently- what clever metaphor,eh?) then it is titled most aptly. But if it's thick and fast laughs, crude giggles and naughty swinging stories you're after, you're better off sticking your car keys in a bowl with your neighbours this weekend, because you won't be getting any of these things Swinging with the Finkels.