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THE SWITCH

Birthing "The Switch"
"The Switch” is based on the short story "Baster,” written by Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Jeffrey Eugenides, author of "The Virgin Suicides” and "Middlesex.” Screenwriter Allan Loeb discovered the story when it was originally published in The New Yorker in 1996 and believed it would be a great premise for a film. Loeb subsequently developed the screenplay with producers Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa of Bona Fide Productions.

Producer Nathan Kahane, president of Mandate Pictures ("Juno,” "Stranger than Fiction”), had an opportunity to read the script and became an enthusiastic fan. "We felt it had a totally fresh approach to a very unique subject, so we reached out to Albert [Berger] and Ron [Yerxa], whom we have worked with in the past, to let them know we were extremely passionate about partnering with them on this film.”

Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa have produced an eclectic roster of some of the most popular and critically acclaimed films of recent years, including "Little Miss Sunshine,” "Election,” "Cold Mountain,” "Bee Season” and "Little Children.”

Ron Yerxa explains why he and Berger were drawn to the premise behind "The Switch.” "We like comedies that explore the underlying social forces in America. This project had a unique premise and it presented social ideas in collision.”

But Berger says that doesn't mean the story won't resonate. "This movie, and particularly the character of Kassie, will be very familiar to audiences. She's going through a classic dilemma that women face these days. She has a career. She is very well educated. She has been in relationships that haven't exactly panned out for her. She very much wants to have a child and to find the right balance between family and career, so she goes ahead and does something about it. That go-at-it-alone quality is something that people will really relate to.”

Jennifer Aniston, empathizing with her character Kassie, explains, "When we meet Kassie she's at a time in her life where she's just ready to have a child. She alerts her best friend that she's going to sort of do this on her own because she really feels she wants a child more than she needs the man, which I found quite interesting. I don't know if I would do it that way, but anyway, she does, and there are a lot of women out there who do, so I think it's great to represent.”

Yerxa felt that this story allowed the comedy genre to be developed and explored in a new way. He describes "The Switch” as a "subversive comedy” because the ordinary innocent peccadilloes—losing a phone number and needing to find it, misunderstanding a message and consequently believing a falsehood—are absent.

Nathan Kahane adds that "the core of this story is also really about Wally's journey. He's a regular guy who is so repressed he barely knows what he wants or how to get it. When he finally does take action on his feelings, he does a terrible thing and we then can't help but laugh as we watch him repent and redeem himself to become the kind of man a boy would be proud to call his father.”

In "The Switch,” Wally suffers a real crisis of conscience over his deceitful act. He risks losing Kassie forever as a friend if he tells her, and yet he has to face that not telling her would be the actions of a child and not a grown man. For the first time in his life, Wally has to grow up and take responsibility for his own actions, regardless of the outcome, because it is the right thing to do.

Kassie, on the other hand, must deal with trust—being deceived by her best friend in a way that is irrevocable. Her innocent denial of the fact that Sebastian looks and acts so much like Wally is her own way of postponing the inevitable truth—knowing she will need to make some choices as a result.

"As far as the comedy goes,” says Bateman, "it's not pie-in-the-face, winky, slapstick kind of broad comedy. It's whatever laughs would come from people being in a real situation, so we never lean into any of the stuff and it's not some knee-slapping, silly comedy. It's character-driven with a lot of reactions—stuff that I really like to do and it's material that makes me laugh, so if I've ever made you laugh, then you'd probably like this.”

"In a way, this is a comedy, but it's a moral tale too,” Ron Yerxa says. "The implications of not being emotionally honest or going deep enough with yourself so that almost every way you act is the opposite of what you really want and need, that's certainly the character that Jason Bateman plays. Jennifer Aniston's character is strong and clear in her desires. She holds on to her beliefs and is a good parent even in the face of the obstructions and difficulties she never anticipated.”

Yerxa continues, "It's interesting that Jennifer Aniston's character is a good parent throughout, but Jason Bateman's character, when he first meets Sebastian, is put off. He has no tolerance or humanistic connection to children and it's really an act of discovery on his part. The very reasons he can't stand this child are the things that he repudiates in himself. So, only by a mutual act of self-discovery can he open himself up to accept and love the child. And the journey here is that you might be a totally narcissistic, materialistic, career-oriented New Yorker, but given enough time if you open up to the people who enter your life, you have a chance to become a much better person than you were in the beginning. So I'd put it in the social-class category of comedy.”

"‘The Switch,' in my view,” says Berger, "is really about a guy, Wally, Jason Bateman, who has very strong, unrealized feelings towards Kassie, Jennifer Aniston, who he thinks is his best friend. But, what the audience realizes is that there's much more to it for him and it's one of those movies that takes the character a while to catch up to what the audience may be suspecting early on. It's a very recognizable situation. There are a lot of dynamics in relationships where a character has to grow into his own feelings and I think that's very much the journey of Wally in this movie.”

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