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Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival

The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF) reels out over 200 films from around the globe. Filmmakers and celebrities attend many of the screenings and events during the festival. Parties and gatherings at area "hot spots", on board yachts, and on the beach will provide audiences an opportunity to hob knob with film talent and other movie buffs.




Film In Focus: FLING


Saturday, November 9---------In case you were curious to know where the center for swinging sex is in America (if you answer Los Angeles, New York or San Francisco, you are dead wrong), the correct answer to the above question is: Kansas City, Missouri. Kansas City? You mean that mini-metropolis smack dab in the middle of the country in the swing state that still is not sure if it is "red" or "blue". Well, according to the film FLING, which had its East Coast Premiere last evening at the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival, Kansas City is swing central........swingers in a swing state, who knew?


For all you Joe Six-Packs and Soccer Moms, let me enlighten you that by swinging I mean couples who consider themselves in "open relationships", which allow for them to individually or collectively have sex outside of their marriages or relationships. That this "openness" eventually has its consequences is at the core of Laura Boersma and John Stewart Muller's smart and provocative script. "We made a conscious decision not to set the film in New York or Los Angeles, where you would expect sexual attitudes to be that free and open", director John Stewart Muller explained. Having been raised in Kansas City, he returned to his native roots to explore the phenomenon of open relationships that he and Boersma were seeing in the circles they traveled in......young people on the cusp of 30 who were already divorced or who did not want to jump quite yet into the pool of marriage.


FLING begins, appropriately enough, at a wedding, with two of a circle of close-knit former college friends make the leap to tie the knot and give marriage a try. Their extended network of friends and family members are of the blazingly attractive variety, so it is not terribly unusual or improbable that they individually pair off with not quite the person they arrived with. This is especially true for Samantha, a dewey-faced fashion designer (played by Courtney Ford) who has arrived with her live-in steady Mason, a successful writer (played by the boyishly handsome Steve Sandvoss). By evening's end, she is drawn back into the arms of her ex-boyfriend James (a real estate developer played by teen hearthrob Brandon Routh). Mason, suddenly available for the evening, frolicks with the underaged Olivia (played by blond thrush Shoshana Bush) who also happens to be the younger sister of the bridgegroom and Mason's literary manager Luke (played by the cooly handsome Nick Wechsler).


If you are having trouble keeping up with this La Ronde a la Gossip Girl, the film replays its sexual encounters between all these characters more than once. In fact, one could not help but wonder while watching the many sex scenes peppered throughout the film that lip gloss must have been a necessary element on the set where there is so much necking. Director Muller is not shy in having his attractive actors bare (almost) all in sexual encounters that take place in bedrooms, on couches, in hot tubs and even at an art gallery. This constant clinching and switching of partners seems to be allright with everyone, but James comes to understand that he is made of much more traditional stock and wants Samantha all for his own (oh James, how 19th century!!!).


The film eventually veers from its free-and-easy atmosphere into a fiercer drama when (spoiler alert!!!) a secret emerges that brings all the characters to a kind of emotional and moral crossroads. Fun and games can rule when there are no consequences, but the game gets more serious once emotional lines are crossed. Suddenly, everyone in the sexual roundelays have to take responsibility for their freewheeling actions and make the important decisions that allow them to "grow up".


The "eye candy" cast delivers the material with the right amount of panache and soul-searching. The best known is probably Brandon Routh, who broke out two years ago in his role as Superman in SUPERMAN RETURNS. A former model, Routh is impossibly handsome and cuts a dashing figure even in worn t-shirts and jeans. Steve Sandvoss as the randy writer has the most on-screen sex and he is apparently comfortable showing off his trim yet worked out body. Perhaps because he did the most shedding of clothes, the writers rewarded him with the most interesting and in-depth storyline: an immature young man from whom all things come so easy who must take a long, deep and dark look at his superficiality. Sandvoss brings great emotional depth to those soul-searching signs and a wounded beauty that makes him even more attractive. He mined that same inner emotion in his breakthrough role in the gay cult classic LATTER DAYS. In a smaller role, and unfortunately not one that is scripted for him to take off his shirt, Nick Wechsler provides the necessary moral balance and outrage that makes it clear that actions have their consequences. Wechsler, a veteran of the cult television drama ROSWELL, has the kind of on-screen presence that draws your eye, even in scenes where he is just one of an ensemble. Rounding out the cast are Courtney Ford (the lucky Mrs. Brandon Routh in real life) brings the right kind of insoucciance to her role as the young woman who puts career before relationships; Shoshana Bush who brings a bubbly Lolita-like quality to her role as the virginal younger sister; and Ellen Hollman, whose beauty has a built-in maturity that anchors her few scenes.


While the film delivers on its sex scenes and shows off its cast to great advantage (ironically, the hunky men are more on display than the women), the film is no soft-porn trifle. It ultimately does delve into ideas about honesty, jealousy, commitment, maturity and understanding our need and capacity for love. A "five years later" epilogue that demonstrates how all these swinging singles have moved on to respectability makes for a powerful coda, although life seems far less alive for these settled characters who are transformed into more recognizable pillars of the community. Personally, I liked their wild sides, even though a wild thing can not rage forever. The passage of time, as much as anything else, threatens to dull the thrill of sexual promise but can lead to the deeper recesses of emotional fulfillment. Hopefully, FLING will not be sold as merely a sex romp, but as a serious look at the libidos, values and moral compasses of the "turning thirty" set. My only remaining question: What do the Kansas City officials put in the drinking water to make these people so horny ALL THE TIME? That's swingin', man. For more information on the film, log on to:


Sandy Mandelberger, FLIFF Dailies Editor


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About Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival

Mandelberger Sandy
(International Media Resources)

Online Dailies for the 24th edition of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival , October 23 - November 11, 2009

United States

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