Swiped

Early on in the comedy Swiped, Ashlee (Kalani Hilliker) tells her brother James (Kendall Ryan Sanders) that it is a shame his generation never interacts face-to-face anymore; how everyone looks at his or her screens all the time and that loses a bit of humanity. She then proceeds to look back at her phone and use one of its numerous features or apps. I haven’t the slightest idea if that is intended as a meta-joke of some sort or not. Honestly, that describes the entire film. Plus, the audience discovers that his family, while they love James, don’t understand him, so this is what he is discussing with his mom (Leigh-Allyn Baker) and sister on their way to college?

Arriving first to his room, James unpacks as Lance (Noah Centineo) walks in and determines that James comes on too strong; as such, Lance and James head out for some food. As James happens to pass by a club and notices a former classmate, Hannah (Shelby Wulfert) leaving. James is excited to see her, as they haven’t spoken since he inadvertently embarrassed her at their high school senior prom. James proceeds to walk Hannah to her dorm room, apologizing for prom.

Let’s pause the plot synopsis here, and discuss one of the oddest moments in Swiped. During this walk to the dorm, Hannah just wants to be left alone to continue reading her book. James asks what she is reading, and she replies Sense And Sensibility. In unison, they both say “…by Jane Austen.” Hannah is surprised that James knows who Austen is and that he is familiar with her works. Consider her reaction to this super smart kid, whom she’s known for several years…and somehow well aware of one of the most taught writers of the 19th century…is one of shock? If this moment is meant to be humorous, it just falls flat.

“They then hit upon the idea to create a ‘hook-up’ app dubbed Jungle…”

Anyways, classes begin, and James, Lance, Hannah, and Lance’s two best friends all have the same computer science class, with Professor Barnes (Kirsten Johnston). The professor is a bit over-the-top and demanding, but appears to want her students to succeed.

Later, while studying in the library, James overhears Lance and his two buddies complain about how the ladies on campus want to get to know you and have a real relationship. They then hit upon the idea to create a ‘hook-up’ app. Dubbed Jungle, this app would have harsh terms and conditions to use, such as the ladies aren’t allowed to ask your name, where you work, request that you call them afterward, or pursue a second hangout unless the man initiates it. However, these three know as much about coding as a rock, so they enlist James to help them.

After a few weeks of coding, James announces that Jungle is ready. Lance and his friends go out and convince all their male friends, roommates, and classmates to join the app because all of its restrictions give them sex a la carte without any pressure for something more.

They convince the ladies to participate because all the guys already have. One thing leads to another, and before anyone knows it, Jungle is an enormous hit, not just on the campus but everywhere. The family dentist is using it, parents are using it, everyone, save for James and Hannah, is using it. Can James forgive himself for coding such an app? Once Hannah discovers the truth, will he be on the outs with her once again?

“…all men are horny and only want sex…all women wanting to connect on a deeper level…”

Swiped, written and directed by Ann Deborah Fishman, aside from the prominent use of apps, feels like something out of the mid-1980s. It utilizes very simplistic and tired views, peddling the idea that all men, save for James, are horny and only want sex. It also goes the opposite way, with all women wanting to connect on a deeper level. There aren’t shades of grey at all. Women in the movie never want only to have a good time for a night. Just as preposterous for any guy (save James) to be genuinely interested in someone for her personality. Worst of all, Swiped exclusively trades in heteronormative affairs; there is not a single gay or lesbian couple, and not a single non-binary person to be found. This adds to the relic of a bygone era feeling (in a negative way).

Not helping matters is its barebones characters. James is a super nerd who has been coding since he was seven; Lance only thinks about getting laid; Hannah reads a lot. The other players, even major supporting characters, are so forgettable I am not sure I can list even a single trait of theirs. More than that though is the fact that I did not laugh once. Sure a smirk or smile here and there, but the movie is never all that funny.

While Swiped is terribly written but the acting is excellent, which makes the film more tolerable to watch. As James, Kendall Ryan Sanders finds a delicate balance between socially awkward and enduring. Noah Centineo is good looking and suave, and he does what he can with a thoroughly despicable character. Wulfert is charming as Hannah and almost manages to give her more than one trait, almost. The rest of the cast all suit their roles just fine, but, again, no one can rise above the script to make an impression on the viewer.

Swiped is a comedy that is not funny; granted such things are wildly subjective (e.g. I don’t like Louis CK). Beyond that though, its take on relationships is remarkably dated and coupled with its strictly heterosexual view of relationships and one-dimensional characters, there is little to engage the audience. The actors all try their best, but they can’t make the subpar script rise above sheer mediocrity.

Swiped (2018) Directed by Ann Deborah Fishman. Written by Ann Deborah Fishman. Starring Kendall Ryan Sanders, Shelby Wulfert, Noah Centineo, Kirsten Johnston, Leigh-Allyn Baker, Kalani Hilliker, George Hamilton.

4 Gummi Bears (out of 10)

2 responses to “Swiped

  1. Thank you for taking the time to watch and review SWIPED.

    You did get a few things right in your review. The first scene is a meta reference to the prevailing tech addiction when Ashlee (played by Kalani Hilliker) tells her brother James (played by Kendall Sanders) “When are you going to interact with real people who are right in front of you?” and then she promptly goes back to her preoccupation with her own phone.

    You also do concede that in SWIPED the acting is excellent and I fully agree. SWIPED is a great ensemble of fine actors – each of whom I was gratified and thrilled to direct.

    However, your complaint that SWIPED paints men as only interested in no strings attached sex and women as solely interested in connecting misapprehends the essence of the movie – SWIPED is satire which by definition uses exaggeration to comment on social issues. The social issue at stake here is the question of whether hook up apps benefit females.

    With the exception of Bumble which was founded by a co founder of Tinder – as far as I know, the main hook up apps available today were originated by males. In SWIPED, James Singer is the proxy for those technocrats and the thesis is that they create these apps without cognizance or care of the human consequences – particularly to females.

    In SWIPED the females revolt against the status quo which dehumanizes them and this reflects the truth of the modern female consciousness as personified in the #Me Too and #Times Up movement. Like it or not – there are distinct differences between the male and female experiences of sex in general and the hook up app culture in particular. In response to your assertion that the characters are too hetero, ninety minutes is simply not long enough to delve into the nuances of the hook up experience by every type of individual on the gender, non binary and sexual spectrum. In the sequel, I will be sure to address this.

    You are quite correct in feeling the 1980s with SWIPED but for the wrong reasons. Neither SWIPED nor the writer/director are stuck in the past but merely allude to a time not so long ago when people had reasonable expectations of some modicum of courtship in the mating ritual. In the 1980s dating was still a custom in modern life. The pivotal scene in SWIPED when James references “dating” to a room full of sorority sisters and is met by the reproof that none of them had been on a date is the point – tech has made dating a relic and replaced it with expectations for impersonal sex. Do some females like impersonal sex and do some males want connection? Of course, but that is the topic for another movie.

    SWIPED endeavors to make a point – in a comical way – about how far we have come in depersonalizing sexual interactions. This is a topic that needs to be discussed. It can be done in a serious way as the HBO documentary similarly titled SWIPED: Hooking Up in the Digital Age does – or in a comical, satirical way that my romantic comedy SWIPED does. But it is a thoroughly modern question to ask whether the appetite for impersonal sex so deftly enabled by technology and the concomitant relegation of dating to history is the endgame people signed on for when they created their accounts on the latest hook up apps.

    With love, respect and gratitude
    Ann Deborah Fishman
    SWIPED writer, director, producer

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