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S.F.W. (1994, Stephen Dorff, Reese Witherspoon)



As well as being one of the few film titles named after an acronym – along with the likes of D.A.R.Y.L., M*A*S*H and F.I.S.T. – S.F.W. boasts an impressive array of hot Hollywood talent: Reese Witherspoon, Joey Lauren Adams, Natasha Gregson Wagner and Tobey Maguire all feature in this satirical teen drama capturing America’s fascination with creating vernight celebrities (and subsequently destroying them just as quickly).

Stephen Dorff stars as Spab, a disillusioned 20-year-old who finds himself at the centre of a hostage drama while shopping at a 24-hour Funstop supermarket with teenage girlfriend Wendy (Witherspoon) and friend Joe Dice (Jack Noseworthy). The hostage takers, an organisation called Split Image, make video recordings and force television networks to play them, with Spab’s attitude to his ordeal – a cursory ‘So f*!@ing what?’ – capturing the media’s attention. Only a wounded Spab and Wendy survive the 36-day siege and after being released from hospital, he is hounded by the media. His already famous reaction is turned into an acronym, S.F.W., and becomes a rallying cry for disaffected youth throughout the States. But an FBI agent, Parsley (Richard Portnow), believes Spab was actually in league with Split Image and determines to uncover the truth about him.

James Foley was originally set to direct this sharp media satire but when he couldn’t, Jefery Levy grabbed his chance. ‘In S.F.W., Spab is explicitly turned into a commodity by the mass media,’ the director explains. ‘His trauma is packaged and sold to a worldwide audience. What’s disturbing about Spab is that he finds himself swirling in an absurd vortex: when the newest idol comes along, he is spat out and becomes an individual again.’ Following his star-making turn as ‘fifth Beatle’ Stuart Sutcliffe in Backbeat , Stephen Dorff gives another strong performance as the nihilistic rebel with a cause, while child model-turned actress Reese Witherspoon demonstrates why she went on to become one of Hollywood’s most sought-after commodities.

production details
USA | 96 minutes | 1994

Director: Jefery Levy
Writers: Danny Rubin, Jefery Levy (based on the novel by Andrew Wellman)

Stephen Dorff as Cliff Spab
Reese Witherspoon as Wendy Pfister
Jake Busey as Morrow Streeter
Joey Lauren Adams as Monica Dice
Pamela Gidley as Janet Streeter
David Barry Gray as Scott Spab
Jack Noseworthy as Joe Dice
Richard Portnow as Gerald Parsley
Tobey Maguire as Al
Natasha Gregson Wagner as Kristen