When a high school senior who seemingly has everything going for him gives in to a moment of weakness with the wild new girl, things go terribly, horribly wrong.
The moral of Swimfan is simple (and one that's been handed down from film upon film before it): Don't mess around with a girl teetering on the edge of insanity, 'cause nothing good is going to come of it. Still, we all know the drill. 18-year-old Ben Cronin (Jesse Bradford) has it all--a loving girlfriend, Amy (Shiri Appleby), a promising shot at a swim scholarship with Stanford University and a good job at his mom's (Kate Burton) hospital. That is, until he meets Madison Bell (Erika Christensen), the sexy new girl in school who decides she'd like to get to know the handsome Ben a little better. One thing leads to another, and--bada-bing! bada-bam!--there they are, makin' waves in the pool. Ben doesn't feel great about cheating on Amy and hopes his dalliance, and his guilt, will just go away. But Madison will not be ignored. After he spurns her, she proceeds to systematically ruin his life, until ultimately murder becomes the primary objective. Save some glaring implausibilities (how can one teenage girl have so many resources at her fingertips?), Swimfan manages to get its point across.
Obviously, what will draw people to this movie is the talent, and Swimfan gathers a able collection of good-looking youngsters to carry the movie. Bradford (Bring It On) has a baby face that belies a growing maturity to his acting. He's a natural. Bradford and Appleby (TV's Roswell) are also refreshingly believable as a young couple in love without too much sugar coating. They have an honest moment together sitting at a restaurant while he is trying to get her to forgive him--it's a nice chemistry, and you end up rooting for them. Christensen, however, is the one we all really want to see. Since her fantastic performance as the teenage junkie in Steven Soderbergh's Traffic two years ago, she's been touted as one of Hollywood's young performers to watch. At first, she infuses Madison with a fair amount of intelligence and wit; she actually seems pretty sane. While the young actress is obviously talented, this particular approach works to her disadvantage later when she goes off the deep end. It seems almost forced. Christensen is much better at the cool, manipulative and charismatic persona rather than the ''look-out-I-have-a-knife'' one. She is still one to watch, though, once she gets her hands on some great material.
OK, so there isn't anything new about this concept. Some may cite Clint Eastwood's 1971 Play Misty for Me as the first classic chick-stalker movie and since then, there have been some great ones (Fatal Attraction) and some not so great (The Crush). Swimfan falls somewhere in between. For the sake of moving the story along, it asks you to suspend your disbelief quite a bit. How could Madison get her hands on hospital drugs or be strong enough to do some of the things she does? Still, the direction surprises you at times. Actor-turned-director John Polson isn't going to win any awards but knows how to use the camera effectively. The film captures its actors and the surroundings in a lush way. One particular editing technique he uses is the quick cuts when emphasizing an actor's emotional reaction. When Madison is rejected, he cuts between her slightly varying, wounded glares. It works. Unfortunately, the film still falls into the same tired clichés set by much better predecessors.
Even though it's a story that has been done many times before, Swimfan should bring in some business with the 18-24 crowd, with the promise of sex, violence and psycho stalkings. It's a combo that meshes well.