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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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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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