THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
It's a little tough to review The Lifestyle: Swinging in America since
I went blind about ten minutes in. Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but
only a bit. The Lifestyle is an uncensored look behind the white picket
fences of some of the strangest folks in our great land. The swingers profiled
here are mostly over 60, fat, craggy, and only attractive in an all-of-god's-creatures
sort of way, and even then not quite. While they may not look out of place in
sock garters and sun visors putting around the yogurt shop at the local food
court, what these grandpas and grandmas really like is sex, any way they can
get it: Group sex, gang bangs (or marathons as they call it), sex toys, role-playing,
bisexuality, spouse-swapping, and, of course, lots of hot tubs.
The Lifestyle offers a very intimate look at this phenomenon, which
is something that the participants say would blow the minds of their children
if they knew. However, the film does offer some slight criticism from a younger
couple who found their relationship strained by their participation in the lifestyle.
What it doesn't provide is real depth. Serious issues are touched on but then
quickly steered around: What repression in their own lives are these septuagenarians
reacting to? How did the one young woman interviewed ever manage to overcome
the massive age difference between her and the men she was with? How many of
these women are coerced into the lifestyle by their husbands and convince themselves
that they like it? What's up with a racist statement made early on? And why
doesn't anyone go on a damn diet?
The best way to watch The Lifestyle is as something of a comedy mixed
with horror. Moments abound that can cause the sturdiest viewer to take pause.
Talking heads quickly cut to montages of down-right nastiness (or "sport-fucking"
as one particularly dirty old man calls it). The ultimate irony of the interviewees
in The Lifestyle is that, while they hope to inspire the public to join
them in their sexcapades they are far more likely to cause viewers to swear
off sex entirely.
The video is widescreen. The transfer looks good. The film consists mostly of
interviews and is shot pretty unimaginatively.
The audio is stereo and is fine. Nothing really to demanding.
An additional 45 minutes of footage is included, although what made the final
cut is plenty, in my opinion. I should note that the running time listed for
the film (121 minutes) includes this extra footage, as the actual film is well
under 90 minutes long.
Weblinks, production notes, and other information is also included.
The Lifestyle is an interesting film on a ridiculous topic that is probably
best not watched alone. There are plenty of cringe-inducing moments and even
some worthy of a scream. It also raises the question "What's wrong with old
people and are they all this crazy?" Maybe one day we'll all find out.
Gil Jawetz is a graphic designer, video director, and t-shirt designer. He lives in Brooklyn.
E-mail Gil at firstname.lastname@example.org