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by Willie Waffle

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From writer/director Doug Sadler, Swimmers is an emotional movie that draws you in with its heart and ambition, even if the storytelling and dialogue need some help.

Tara Devon Gallagher stars as Emma - an 11-year old girl facing some very big problems. Her life is in upheaval after it is discovered she has a degenerative ear problem requiring very expensive surgery. With the family already facing grave financial straits, and her parents' marriage hanging together by a thread, this could be the final straw that drives them all apart. When no one seems to be very interested in talking to Emma, she finds friendship with a troubled twentysomething woman, Merrill (Sarah Paulson), who has returned to this town looking to deal with her past.

Sadler does a wonderful job giving us several very interesting characters to follow including Emma, her mother (Cherry Jones), her father (Robert Knott) and her brother (Shawn Hatosy), and the arc of each one's story is engrossing as we learn more and more about them. However, Sadler lets Swimmers get a bit bogged down in it all. The dialogue doesn't do much to move us (the situations move us much more than anything said on the screen), and the stories all feel like they need a bit more time to develop without the rushing needed to get us to the end as quickly as we do. Luckily, the actors make the difference.

Paulson and Jones are fantastic in the movie's most complex and compelling roles. Paulson's character could easily be written off as crazy, but she adds a humanity that makes you worry about Merrill instead of mock her, while Jones steals the movie by filling her character with steely resolve.

Swimmers will open in DC at The Avalon Theatre in Chevy Chase on Friday, June 9, 2006.  

2 ½ Waffles (Out Of 4)

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