Written by Josh Lambie – Student Pages Student Writer
Behind the closed doors of cosy suburbia lies the passions and desires of our animalistic, depraved (?) selves that we try so hard to hide from society. Palm Swings attempts to somewhat explore this theme (many other films do this with more depth and tact). That’s not to say that the film fails completely in its aim. But the problems and successes of a film can often be rooted in the script and a few missteps derail this indie feature.
The premise is simple; a newlywed couple move from the city to an arid and fashionable Palm Springs suburban paradise. He is a handsome philosophy college professor (yes, another one). She is a pretty photographer. They are deeply in love. They meet their neighbours who, according to wife Alison, may have been flirting with them. Alison is bored with the bourgeoisie lifestyle and can’t find work in her new community. She is intrigued by the promise and danger of the sexually liberated couple and investigates further. It turns out, beneath the squeaky clean image, Palm Springs is home to a large swinging community. The young, innocent couple are drawn in to the lifestyle and discover its perks and dangers.
This film is commendable for its non judgemental portrayal of swinging and polyamorous relationships (a lifestyle that has become more prevalent and discussed in modern society). Several characters explain the layout of this kind of relationship and how it works and it seems believable. It is a shame that the script is not strong enough to explore these ideas further. The lead actors do their best with the material but the ending of the film is predicable and clichéd (the swinging tears the couple apart but all is resolved before the credits roll).
Some of the performances are surface level and, in a way, an air of superficiality is beneficial. These are characters who are hiding impulses and satisfying them in private. A double life of sorts. But at times the acting feels off. When you also realize the tendency of adding extensive, gratuitous female nudity (not uncommon in the film industry as it is) then the whole thing starts to feel like a “special movie” you have buy on Pay Per View in a hotel room. Not the vibe the producers were going for I am sure.
But there are some saving graces. I thought Sugar Lyn Beard was well cast as Alison, her natural high pitched voice and young looks giving an instant innocent aura. It also leads to a nice twist of convention; her character delves deeper into the swinging world and she starts an affair, while Mark (her husband) is too loyal and devoted to even have sex with another woman at a swinging event.
While I was watching, I kept thinking of other films that covered this kind of subject. The Ice Storm and American Beauty are great films that delve into the hidden desires that lie beneath stifling suburbia. This film doesn’t reach those kinds of heights but it does deserve some credit for its portrayal of the swinging community.