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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Switch

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Though it showcases some of the tangled emotional complications brought about by severing conception from its divinely intended source and setting, the bond of marital love, "The Switch" (Miramax)—a frequently distasteful comedy of modern manners—fails to reach the moral conclusions its own plot should make obvious.

Instead, co-directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon's adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides' 1996 short story "Baster" takes as a given of contemporary life its heroine's right to engineer such a rupture.

As played by Jennifer Aniston, that heroine—a seemingly successful but unfulfilled New York career woman in her early 40s named Kassie—decides she can't "wait around" for the arrival of Mr. Right in her life. So she settles on a plan to conceive by artificial insemination. When she announces this scheme to her platonic best friend, Wally (Jason Bateman), whose own professional achievements are offset by numerous neuroses, he timidly expresses reservations.

Wally's discomfiture is increased when he realizes that—far from selecting him as her donor of choice, as he initially imagined—Kassie is out to enlist his help in her search for a genetic paragon. Though a quarrel between the two prevents Wally from participating in the quest, Kassie eventually sends him an invitation to the "insemination party" that her best female pal, Debbie (Juliette Lewis), is throwing for her.

This occasion provides the context for some of the film's most debased moments, foreshadowed by a sight gag of multicolored confetti in an apropos shape. After meeting Roland (Patrick Wilson)—the man of the hour, so to speak—Wally gets resentfully drunk and locks himself in the bathroom where the container holding Roland's "contribution" sits on a warming device normally used for mugs of coffee or tea.

Moments later, Wally spills this substance down the sink. In a panic, he makes a substitution. By the next morning, however, the effects of liquor have completely obliterated this part of the evening from Wally's memory.

Flash forward seven years and Kassie—who moved back to her native Minnesota soon after informing Wally that she had indeed become pregnant—returns to Gotham with son Sebastian (Thomas Robinson) in tow, and reconnects with her old confidant. Struck by the many parallels between his personality and the lad's, Wally gradually reconstructs the truth of Sebastian's paternity.

Lost in all of this moral confusion are touching scenes of paternal love and a fine comic turn by Jeff Goldblum as Leonard, Wally's perpetually flustered business partner. But neither the emotional maturity Wally is shown to acquire through his affectionate response to Sebastian's plight nor the belatedly acceptable wrap-up can compensate for the pass Allan Loeb's script has already given to Kassie's misguided pursuit of parenthood.

The film contains a benign view of artificial insemination, off-screen masturbation, rear and blurred frontal nudity, much sexual humor, at least one use of the S-word and some crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.


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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but he soon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p> American Catholic Blog Ultimately there is no friend who can fully understand us, who can walk with us all the way. We must go forward and walk on our own in response to who we are and who we are called to be in God. —Thomas Merton

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