The Swimmer | Chicago Reader

The Swimmer

The only John Cheever story ever adapted to the big screen, this drama follows the eccentric journey of a suburban New York man who appears at the house of some old friends and resolves to take a dip in each of the backyard swimming pools that lead across the county back to his stately home. It's an unlikely movie property, but this 1968 feature imposes a dramatic shape on the story while preserving Cheever's characteristic sense of suburban rot. Burt Lancaster plays the title character, whose encounters with his upper-class neighbors (among them Kim Hunter and Joan Rivers) grow increasingly weird and disturbing as he approaches a cruel homecoming. A resounding commercial flop, this has since been recognized as a signature 60s film, prescient in its view of American self-deception. Frank Perry directed a screenplay by his wife, Eleanor, though the studio brought in Sydney Pollack for extensive reshoots.

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