Ned Merrill, the man in the center of this story, appears out of nowhere and takes a dip in the pool of the Forsburghs, who are his neighbors in suburban Connecticut. They act as though Ned is a long time friend, although one notices a certain reluctance in the part of the hostess to warm up to Ned. Our swimmer, looking to the distant homes nearby, declares he will swim across the area through all his neighbors' pools until he reaches home. This is quite an undertaking because he will have to cover a big area. As Ned Merrill keeps dropping on his neighbors a new image of him is made clear. His good looks and his athletic figure disguise a man that is miserable and has failed as a husband and as a father.
Ned's encounter with Julie Ann Hopper, the former baby sister he employed to mind his daughters, starts on an upbeat note. Julie Ann confesses on the big crush she had on him. He invites her to come with him swimming until he reaches his own home. Unfortunately, Ned tries too hard to make an impression in the young woman, something that turns her off completely, and the spell he had on her is broken. Julie Ann ends up running away appalled at Ned's sudden interest in her appears to be more sexual than friendly. Her idea of the man she secretly loved is shattered.
Ned meets all types of people; some are friendly, while others aren't exactly welcoming, like Mrs. Hammar, who tells him how he is not welcome in her house, let alone, in her pool. She resents him deeply for the way she perceived his treatment of his dying son. Ned strikes a good chord with the lonely boy selling lemonade. Not having money on him, Ned has to cut a deal with the child, plus he is instrumental in dispelling the fear of drowning from the boy when they enter the empty pool.
When he arrives at Shirley Abbot's patio, he gets a cool reception. We realize that both have been lovers, although all Shirley feels now is contempt for the man she loved so much. More of Ned's life is revealed as Shirley throws in his face all she had to put up with him and the hypocrisy of their relationship because he had no intentions in leaving his wife and daughters.
The last pool where Ned tries to swim proves to be the one where his past comes to play a trick on him. Not having the fifty cents for the entrance fee, he turns to Howie, a tradesman in town, and his friend Jack Finney, to lend him the money. As he exits the pool Howie and his wife, and Jack and his, confront Ned because the way he had used their services and not paid his bills.
The pathetic arrival of Ned to his dilapidated and run down house, is an affirmation of the image one had in one's mind about what appeared to be a secure and dashing man. Instead of a hero, Ned is more a creature that deserves pity. He had wasted his potential, and the happiness of his family pursuing a life that was instrumental in destroying what might have been a happy marriage. Now, broken in the middle of the pouring rain Ned is reduced to nothing.
"The Swimmer", a novel by John Cheever, chronicled the life in suburbia, that he knew so well. It took an important director, Frank Perry, to bring the book to the screen. Let's not forget that Mr. Perry had a string of films that are as important today as when they were produced, namely, "David and Lisa", "Diary of a Mad Housewife", "Last Summer", among them. "The Swimmer" was adapted by his wife, Eleanor, this 1968 film doesn't show any signs of aging, perhaps because of the situation presented is real and it keeps repeating itself. Dennis Quaid cinematography captures that ideal setting of rural Connecticut, its country homes and estates. Marvin Hamlish composed the musical score that blends perfectly with appears on the screen. Supposedly Sidney Pollack helped Mr. Perry, although he gets no credit for his efforts.
The best in the film is the inspired performance of Burt Lancaster. He makes a credible Ned Merrill with his good looks and physique. Mr. Lancaster's performance begins in a high note giving us the impression he is above his neighbors, who appear to resent him for what might be his success in life, although as the story develops, he is seen in another light by the viewer. Several performances are worth mentioning. Janice Rule as the suffering former lover does wonders with her role. Same can be said of Janet Landgard, who appears as Julie Ann. Others in the large cast are Kim Hunter, Marge Champion, Jan Miner, Rose Gregorio, and Cornelia Otis Skinner.
"The Swimmer" deserves a look thanks to the great work of Frank Perry and the inspired performance of Burt Lancaster.
Action / Drama
Action / Drama
Neddy Merrill has been away for most of the Summer. He reappears at a friend's pool. As they talk, someone notices that there are pools spanning the entire valley. He decided to jog from pool to pool to swim across the whole valley. As he stops in each pool his interactions tell his life story.
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