August 23, 2010

"The Switch"

The year’s third romantic comedy about artificial insemination, The Switch, turns out to be a pleasant surprise amidst the movies being dumped in the dead weeks before Labor Day. Pitched at a higher level of wit than either Jennifer Lopez’s The Back-Up Plan or the critically-slathered lesbian sitcom The Kids Are All Right, The Switch is a low-key, wry, poignant relationship film self-consciously modeled on Annie Hall and When Harry Met Sally. Although hardly as funny as its progenitors, The Switch turned out better than its on-the-nose trailer portended.

While Jennifer Aniston is top-billed as Kassie Larson, a television producer intent upon single motherhood the scientific way, Jason Bateman plays the central character, Wally Mars. He’s a neurotic, nebbishy Wall Street quant who has been platonic best friends with Kassie for a half-dozen years. Bateman portrays Wally as a handsomer, less overtly hostile, and less ethnic version of Woody Allen’s anhedonic worrywart Alvy Singer. ...
The Switch was adapted by Allan Loeb from The Baster, a Jeffrey Eugenides short story that appeared in The New Yorker in 1996. ... Loeb’s screenplay begins with Kassie explaining to Wally that she’s given up waiting for Mr. Right, and wants him to help her find the perfect sperm donor. This just makes Wally even more depressed and sardonic. With no help from Wally, she locates her ideal genes in a rock-climber from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, played by the blond and blue-eyed Patrick Wilson. Wally calls him “The Viking.” (Not surprisingly, Denmark is said to lead the world in export of frozen semen.) ...

The Switch is one of countless American movies that preach the moral: “Hey, pretty blonde girl, don’t fall for the athletic blond boy. Fall for the funny brunet boy instead!” You might almost think that screenwriters like Loeb have a personal interest in this theme.

Read the whole thing there and comment upon it here.

31 comments:

Michael Ventura said...

The Switch is one of countless American movies that preach the moral: “Hey, pretty blonde girl, don’t fall for the athletic blond boy. Fall for the funny brunet boy instead!” You might almost think that screenwriters like Loeb have a personal interest in this theme.

I don't like Hollywood in general, but as someone who is very dusky, this is one thing about Hollywood that I really like.

Jim Bowery said...

From TFR: "Kassie starts dropping her hyper-intelligent son with the huge dark brown eyes off with his Uncle Wally while she and The Viking get together to discuss, ever more warmly, the perfect time to reveal to their son who his father is. They don’t notice, however, that they both have blue eyes. (Unfortunately, neither did the co-directors. They both forgot to issue brown contact lenses to Bateman, who appears to have blue-green eyes.)

Why are you so sure it wasn't deliberate?

Are there any hyper-intelligent men with huge dark brown eyes around that may have pulled a fast one? Is there a paternity test?

Laban said...

It's the corollary to Sailer's Law of Female Journalism, the Law of Male Screenwriting.

Anonymous said...

The Switch is one of countless American movies that preach the moral: “Hey, pretty blonde girl, don’t fall for the athletic blond boy. Fall for the funny brunet boy instead!” You might almost think that screenwriters like Loeb have a personal interest in this theme."

LOL.

Here's a picture of Allan Loeb:

http://www.imdb.com/media/rm1063295488/nm1935734

Anonymous said...

I know a woman who had a sperm donor baby and she went to a party with other donor mothers and noticed how fair all the children were with blue eyes. She said it was basically what Himmler was doing in Germany with his master race breeding programs.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't that actually be a decision of the casting director?

Big bill said...

Whether you are Semitic or African, what better way to show you have arrived than covering your own white/blond Suzy Creamcheez?

Anonymous said...

It's the corollary to Sailer's Law of Female Journalism, the Law of Male Screenwriting.

Yeah that's pretty much it. For millions of Americans Hollywood movies must actually be semi-foreign films. Crypto-foreign films perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Do you get to choose the movies you review? Or do you write about films under some contractual arrangement? Or both?

If you get to pick your own movies, I wonder about some of your recent choices.

I think the most interesting genre of movies today are the new Korean films. Many of these are hyper-violent but violence didn't seem to hurt Sam Peckinpah or Akira Kurosawa critically.

Richard Lynn writes that South Korea is the nation with the highest IQ. Seems like their movies should be worth a look.

Albertosaurus

Johnny B. Goode said...

Why is Jennifer Aniston, no great natural beauty, now so much better looking than the ravaged Julia Roberts?

I don't think it's because Julia had 3 kids and Jennifer is childless. Reese Witherspoon had 2 kids in her 20s and she's radiant. Childbirth doesn't ruin a healthy woman.

Is it possible Julia shares a drug problem with her brother but no one is talking about it?

Anonymous said...

I must concur with Laban. I've noticed that it is generally true that if a movie is romantic and a man wrote it, the male lead will generally be poorer, dorkier and less handsome than his rival.

If a movie is romantic and a woman wrote it, the male lead will be better looking, wealthier and won't see that he could do much better than the female lead.

Whiskey said...

The movie did not do very well at the box office, FWIW.

The other reviews I've read have been brutal (I've not seen the movie). At one point Aniston's character tells Bateman's that he is not genetically up to her standards to father her baby. Why exactly is the guy stuck on her?

It seems a female fantasy: ride the carousel, per Roissy, no worries some "intelligent" (but lacking the social and personal dominance that is all for women) Beta male will marry her. Like the Backup Plan and the like, another female fantasy.

I just can't get why the Bateman character is supposed to be hung up on Aniston's? She's cute, but there's much hotter younger women around. Out-takes of her latest cover shoots did not do her any favors (without extensive makeup and photoshopping she looks like an attractive woman in her forties who spent a lot of time in the sun).

Whiskey said...

Let me add that I don't think that Hollywood's "decentralization" leads to slow execution of "in the zeitgeist" stuff that the New Yorker literati are concerned about. Rather it is the concerted effort to appeal to women (post 35) as the one untapped audience that Hollywood has ignored in movies.

Sex and the City, 27 Dresses, etc. did not cost much, made a lot of money, and Hollywood is being hammered revenue wise. TV rights are down, US and foreign. DVD sales are WAY down and Hollywood was stupid and greedy, figuring US and foreign consumers would replace DVDs the way they did video cassettes. Which has not happened. Foreign sales are generally "pre-sold" to a distributor in each region or country, say India or Indonesia, for the whole yearly slate of studio movies. Uncertainty (distributors purchase the films a year in advance, no previews, often stuff barely in production) means a lower price, mostly flat fee, as in used car pricing. Which makes sense business wise -- would you like to manage collections of foreign box office revenues when even India and CHina are only 3% of the world box office total?

Hence the two big developments in Hollywood -- merchandising to extract more revenue (movies as big commercials for toys/stuff/etc), now extending to "Eat Pray Love" and movies aimed at older (post 35) women who had been ignored before.

One other aspect: most script readers are young women, who find this stuff good. Quentin Tarantino can get his stuff moved forward, a no-name guy can't if its action oriented (a turn-off to the young women readers).

Spy said...

Has anyone noticed how many, many times Patrick Wilson has been cast in naked rĂ´les? It's uncanny. I wonder why that is?

Udolpho.com said...

The brunet thing must be the flipside of your female journalist theory, Steve. Male writers dream of romances where the beta male "nice guy" is rewarded for his perseverance and, well, beta-ness.

On the other hand, it would take a number of cocktails before I would describe Aniston as "pretty". She is a dog.

Anonymous said...

DVD sales are WAY down and Hollywood was stupid and greedy, figuring US and foreign consumers would replace DVDs the way they did video cassettes.

Whiskey again gets it wrong. Although this is a quite common misapprehension. It's not studio greed, it's not stupidity and its not the 28 day delay.

It's really very simple. Analog TV used to be broadcast at around 330 horizontal lines. My ex father in law stubbornly stuck with Beta (that's the Sony format not the loser guy in a bar) because it had 250 lines while VHS had only 220.

When DVDs came out they had 480 lines. In modern digital speak they were 480i. This meant that a DVD was incomparably the best home format. Sensible people seeking the best quality stampeded to the DVD.

But that was then. Before Blu-ray the replacement for the DVD could get much market traction we got digital TV and we got High Definition TV. Today the cable companies broadcast a ton of movies in 720p (1280X720) or 1080p(1920X1080 interlaced). These have a far better image than that on any 480i DVD. NetFlix also streams over the web something like 13,000 movies many of which are 720p.

Why is everyone surprised that the sales of what used to be the leading image display technology have slipped when better image quality is available on the tube for free?

The best video image currently is from a Blu-ray disk, but it isn't much better. If you don't have big new set you probably won't notice that it's better than an HD broadcast. If a DVD was twice as good as a VHS tape, a Blu-ray is only about 15% better than a DVD and less that compared to cable HD. We are deep into diminishing returns here.

About half of all Hollywood movies don't benefit from Blu-ray. For example the recent two post-apocalypse movies "The Book of Eli" and "The Road" follow the cliche that everything is ugly after the bombs drop. When you think about it, this makes little sense. Wouldn't the sky be bluer when there were no more industries? Anyway these movies have desaturated colors and are shot on grainy film stock. They gain nothing from higher resolution.

The fastest domestic Internet infrastructure in the world is in South Korea. They used to sell a lot of DVDs there but the market crashed all at once when people could get better video quality over the Web. That will happen here too.

DVDs are dead. They are a zombie technology. Blu-ray disks however may survive because of 3D, which has very high bandwidth requirements that are tough to meet over anything but full FTTH.

Albertosaurus

Svigor said...

The Switch is one of countless American movies that preach the moral: “Hey, pretty blonde girl, don’t fall for the athletic blond boy.

Blond "good girl" isn't a requirement, but the brown-haired "good boy" seems to be. John Cusack was in quite a few (Jewish) romantic comedies back in the day - I remember one where the "good girl" was a French brunette, the "bad girl" was a blond, and of course, the "bad boy" was blond.

The only rules seem to me to advance Jewish interests/tastes and stymie WASP interests/tastes. So occasionally you'll see movies like Caddyshack 2 where the blonds are all scum and the "blue collar Jewish boy" (lol) has to win over the "dying to assimilate rich Jewish girl."

Basically: a brown-haired male going after any female is okay; blonds with blonds is not okay; blond males going after anything-else is great, but keeping blond male "good boys" out altogether is even better; the brown-haired are morally superior to the blonds.

And "blond" and "brown-haired" here are stand-ins for "WASP" and "Jew"; e.g., producers seemed to love pairing Schwarzenegger with, er, you know (Rachel Ticotin, Rae Dawn Chong, Maria Conchita Alonso, etc.). Obviously Schwarzenegger isn't a WASP but you work with what you've got.

And "rules" is a poor word choice; it really just comes down to direction; other than that, there's a lot of flexibility. They have to tell a story and turn a profit first, after all, and mold minds second.

Then there are the exceptions that prove the rule, like Dirty Dancing (Rich snobby Jews, poor cracker male lead, JAP female lead? WTF? I'd love to know whose idea that was) and The Princess Bride (conspicuously blond male and female leads, brown-haired villains? WTF? I bet typecast jerk/villain Elwes was even like "WTF?" ('Course it's all a fairy tale told to a Jewish boy by his Jewish uncle) Again, I'd love to know the backstory there). Now that I think of it, True Romance was another blond/blond exception.

Svigor said...

Let's put it this way; find me a blond fellow who's had a string of romantic comedy roles. I admit I haven't kept up with these movies over the years; it's possible my prediction (no one will find me one) will fall flat.

I can dig up quite a few non-blonds who fit the bill (several of them Jewish).

Svigor said...

Ironically, Caddyshack has a poor Irish-American blond boy torn between a lowlife, rich, and beautiful blond WASP AND a poor Irish-American blond girl. But the anti-WASP animus is pretty clear there, too.

Svigor said...

For example the recent two post-apocalypse movies "The Book of Eli" and "The Road" follow the cliche that everything is ugly after the bombs drop.

One of the reasons I love Postman, warts and all. Postman treats post-crash America like a Western, beautiful scenery everywhere, lightly populated by simple-living SWPLs, heh.

That's another thing we'd get more of with a less nepotistically-Jewish Hollywood; more of the great outdoors.

Svigor said...

Re Aniston; feminine beauty gets short shrift in Hollywood and the media. I think this might be mostly down to testosterone or something. The type of women most likely to succeed in the highly competitive acting market, plus the fact that acting in and of itself is highly extroverted.

I regularly see much more attractive women with my own eyes than I do on TV. But driven, expressive extroverts they ain't.

But yeah, Aniston and SJ Parker are a bridge too far. Especially SJP, ye gods.

BamaGirl said...

I think you guys are delving into this too much. Most white Americans (including WASPs) aren't blondes, therefore its easier for most people to identify with characters that resemble themselves.

Svigor said...

I think you guys are delving into this too much. Most white Americans (including WASPs) aren't blondes, therefore its easier for most people to identify with characters that resemble themselves.

Your explanation has to take into account the male/female bifurcation. And most Americans don't look like Jews, either, but they're overrepresented.

Houghton said...

The Switch is one of countless American movies that preach the moral: “Hey, pretty blonde girl, don’t fall for the athletic blond boy. Fall for the funny brunet boy instead!” You might almost think that screenwriters like Loeb have a personal interest in this theme.

This reminds me of director/writer/producer Judd Apatow. Many of his movies are comedies that star his schleppy Jewish buddies (guys like Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jason Segal, etc.) opposite blonde gentile females. Apatow himself is a geeky Jewish guy. His wife Leslie Mann is a blonde gentile who has appeared in many of his films.

Anonymous said...

You guys are on crack. Aniston isn't attractive, really? She just hit her 40s, and she looks amazing. Granted I don't see her anywhere other than on Letterman or on the cover of a magazine, but her body is still nice, her facial features have aged very well (I assume she loads up on makeup like any other woman her age, but still).

I bet if she put on a nice dress and went into a country where she was never known, she would still turn heads walking down the street.

Johnny B. Goode said...

Svigor,

You are insane. I never said Aniston was naturally pretty - I said the OPPOSITE. Alls I said was she's well-preserved and looks better than her exact contemporary, Julia Roberts.

Most Americans don't look like Jews. How true. Most American women don't look like Scarlet Johanson or Natalie Portman.

American women are IMO the least attractive of all white women. It's not the obesity issue. I don't know what it is, but go to any Eastern European hellhole and you'll find dozens of beautiful ladies.

Go to Youngstown Ohio and you find mostly dogsh*t.

I guess it must be the Jooz, eh Svigor??

Anonymous said...

The Jewish-American screenwriter used to say "write Yiddish, cast British" meaning write the characters as though they were East European Jews like himself but get actors like Robert Redford and Jane Fonda to deliver the lines on screen. Now they have dropped the use of such stalking horses. "Write Yiddish, cast British" might actually be the best way to explain the George W. Bush and Tony Blair years as well.

Anonymous said...

Go to Youngstown Ohio and you find mostly dogsh*t.

I guess it must be the Jooz, eh Svigor??


Well many of the attractive females from flyover country have been sucked into the big cities on the coasts, LA/Hollywood, NYC, etc., for a couple generations now, to pursue "careers" as they were urged by academia and the media. Most end up falling into serial polygyny and being playthings for the city males, while some land the Hollywood director/producer, the hedge fund manager, lawyer, etc. In the past they would have stayed closer to their communities and married males of similar backgrounds, such as the Midwestern male engineers who invented and developed Silicon Valley, and become mothers. These male engineer types in turn go wifeless/childless more than they did in the past or turn to foreign females.

It would be interesting to understand all the ramifications of this, aside from the most obvious, largest, and general - decline in white fertility and demographics over the past couple generations.

Svigor said...

I bet if she put on a nice dress and went into a country where she was never known, she would still turn heads walking down the street.

Yeah but Hollywood has the pick. Lots of women turn heads, ye gods they're everywhere.

You are insane. I never said Aniston was naturally pretty - I said the OPPOSITE. Alls I said was she's well-preserved and looks better than her exact contemporary, Julia Roberts.

Does this have anything to do with a comment I made in this thread? Rotgut says Aniston ain't all that, I agree, then...?

['Merican women are ugly] I guess it must be the Jooz, eh Svigor??

I'm insane?

Hey, I'm all set for a nice battle of words over my hypothesis, but I need something I can work with here.

Svigor said...

I should point out that not all "perpetrators" of the Jew/WASP thing I'm suggesting are themselves Jews. For one thing, people see trends and learn to emulate them (J.K. Rowling and her diversity and tolerance; altruism or salesmanship?). WASP useful idiots might very well carry on the tradition themselves for a while if threw Hollywood in their laps. And there are other reasons, obviously. E.g., Armenian/WASP conflict that would be all but indistinguishable from Jew/WASP conflict.

cultural attache said...

It must be subjective impressions, but perhaps demographics have caused the change of opinion. Or maybe just different opinions.
British writer Rebecca West, superbe observer of ethnic phenotypes (her observations on the Balkan peoples are matchless) suggested that different segments of the population are more striking or not, depending on the country. Concerning America, she said that everywhere it was "young girls" who dazzled her. Some other countries it was mature women, mature men, young men, and various sub-segments. But America was all "young girls." As I recall, her impression was of sunny beauty and attractiveness. Maybe there really was something to the phrase "good old days."