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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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Cyril and Methodius: Because their father was an officer in a part of Greece inhabited by many Slavs, these two Greek brothers ultimately became missionaries, teachers and patrons of the Slavic peoples. 
<p>After a brilliant course of studies, Cyril (called Constantine until he became a monk shortly before his death) refused the governorship of a district such as his brother had accepted among the Slavic-speaking population. Cyril withdrew to a monastery where his brother Methodius had become a monk after some years in a governmental post. </p><p>A decisive change in their lives occurred when the Duke of Moravia (present-day Czech Republic) asked the Eastern Emperor Michael for political independence from German rule and ecclesiastical autonomy (having their own clergy and liturgy). Cyril and Methodius undertook the missionary task. </p><p>Cyril’s first work was to invent an alphabet, still used in some Eastern liturgies. His followers probably formed the Cyrillic alphabet (for example, modern Russian) from Greek capital letters. Together they translated the Gospels, the psalter, Paul’s letters and the liturgical books into Slavonic, and composed a Slavonic liturgy, highly irregular then. </p><p>That and their free use of the vernacular in preaching led to opposition from the German clergy. The bishop refused to consecrate Slavic bishops and priests, and Cyril was forced to appeal to Rome. On the visit to Rome, he and Methodius had the joy of seeing their new liturgy approved by Pope Adrian II. Cyril, long an invalid, died in Rome 50 days after taking the monastic habit. </p><p>Methodius continued mission work for 16 more years. He was papal legate for all the Slavic peoples, consecrated a bishop and then given an ancient see (now in the Czech Republic). When much of their former territory was removed from their jurisdiction, the Bavarian bishops retaliated with a violent storm of accusation against Methodius. As a result, Emperor Louis the German exiled Methodius for three years. Pope John VIII secured his release. </p><p>Because the Frankish clergy, still smarting, continued their accusations, Methodius had to go to Rome to defend himself against charges of heresy and uphold his use of the Slavonic liturgy. He was again vindicated. </p><p>Legend has it that in a feverish period of activity, Methodius translated the whole Bible into Slavonic in eight months. He died on Tuesday of Holy Week, surrounded by his disciples, in his cathedral church. </p><p>Opposition continued after his death, and the work of the brothers in Moravia was brought to an end and their disciples scattered. But the expulsions had the beneficial effect of spreading the spiritual, liturgical and cultural work of the brothers to Bulgaria, Bohemia and southern Poland. Patrons of Moravia, and specially venerated by Catholic Czechs, Slovaks, Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Bulgarians, Cyril and Methodius are eminently fitted to guard the long-desired unity of East and West. In 1980, Pope John Paul II named them additional co-patrons of Europe (with Benedict).</p> American Catholic Blog This is the beauty of self-giving love: Men and women, driven by love, freely choose to give up their autonomy, to limit their freedom, by committing themselves to the good of the spouse. Love is so powerful that it impels them to want to surrender their will to their beloved in this profound way.

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