review for The Swimmer on AllMovie

The Swimmer (1968)
by Michael Hastings review

Burt Lancaster's imposing screen presence and lanky confidence were put to good use in this 1968 adaptation of John Cheever's allegorical short story. Lancaster plays Ned Merrill, a middle-aged man who decides one morning to swim every pool in his upper-class Connecticut neighborhood; with each new venue and its corresponding set of neighbors, Ned's personal history becomes clearer, and we begin to realize that he may not be as self-assuredly "okay" as he seems. Director Frank Perry retained Cheever's methodical structure and incisive wit, and Lancaster lent the role an eerie, somnambulant feel. An uncredited Sydney Pollack directed one of the most memorable sequences, in which Ned confronts his former mistress (Janice Rule). In an apparent attempt to appeal to audiences who had made Mike Nichols's The Graduate such a hit the previous year, Perry peppered the film with quick cuts, playful camera angles, and wry social satire; much of The Swimmer plays like an extended version of the opening party sequence in Nichols' film. Perry's efforts didn't resonate with audiences, however, as the film's box-office performance was lackluster.