1991 Directed by Blake Edwards. Starring Ellen Barkin, Jimmy Smits, Jobeth Williams, Lorraine Bracco, Tony Roberts, Perry King.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., May 17, 1991

The gender-bender dud Switch doesn't just put a man in a dress -- it puts him in a woman's body as well. Unfortunately, it's an ill-fitting conceit. Played strictly as a farce, it might have worked: a womanizer (Steve) is killed by three ex-girlfirends wronged by him, but is sent back to earth as a female (Amanda) and given the chance to redeem himself in the eyes of womankind, so that he can enter heaven. But about halfway through the film, director/screenwriter Edwards -- who has seldom exhibited a knack for disciplined scripts -- loses sight of his objective (if he ever had one and Switch falls apart at the seams. In his similarly themed 1982 film Victor/Victoria, Edwards successfully looked at the blurred distinctions between men and women, straight and gay. Even at its most didactic, that film provided some entertaining food for thought about sexual identity and roleplaying. But Switch is so jumbled and unfocused, the only point Edwards seems to make is that he's not quite sure what the point is. Predictably, the film gives its sexist protagonist a taste of his own medicine: he has to endure condescension from his peers, sexual advances from his boss, lewd remarks from construction workers, and so on. It's supposed to be an education in the feminine mystique, but it's so badly developed that you never see any believable change in the Steve/Amanda character. A stranded subplot in which Steve/Amanda uses sexual wiles to seduce a wealthy lesbian in order to obtain a lucrative ad account never gels. It's as if Edwards wanted to make a few observations about heterosexism and homophobia but couldn't figure out how to integrate them into the story, so he threw in a lesbian for good measure. The only redeeming thing in Switch is Barkin's vulgar and adept physical performance of a man literally trapped in a woman's body. She's in a constant state of discomfort, whether it's trying to walk in high heels (a sight gag that quickly gets old), scratching her breasts, or sitting with her legs apart in a tight miniskirt. Her presence, however, is a small consolation in a movie that takes the battle of the sexes and turns it into a pointless skirmish.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Blake Edwards
In Print
A Splurch in the Kisser: The Movies of Blake Edwards
The Edwards gestalt is a sublime combination of the "low art" of physical comedy and the "high art" of intellectual wit

Marjorie Baumgarten, Sept. 25, 2009

More Blake Edwards Films
The Pink Panther
The first in the original Pink Panther series follows the clueless Inspector Clouseau (the always genius Sellers) to Switzerland in search of a jewel thief ...

Marjorie Baumgarten, May 23, 2001

Edwards' crowning achievement is a wickedly funny, impeccably cast, ingeniously subversive satire of the Hollywood film industry.

Marjorie Baumgarten, Aug. 12, 1999

More by Steve Davis
Book Club: The Next Chapter
Tedious sequel recycles that Golden Girls energy again

May 12, 2023

Fascinating life story of the Black knight is foiled by its own polemic

April 21, 2023


Switch, Blake Edwards, Ellen Barkin, Jimmy Smits, Jobeth Williams, Lorraine Bracco, Tony Roberts, Perry King

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle