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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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Bernard of Clairvaux: Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. 
<p>In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light. </p><p>His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know. </p><p>Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope. </p><p>The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster. </p><p>Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.</p> American Catholic Blog One of the things that we need to remember is that we’re preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.

 
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