Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Blake Edwards|
|Produced by||Tony Adams|
|Written by||Blake Edwards|
|Music by||Henry Mancini|
|Edited by||Robert Pergament|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros|
|Box office||$15.5 million|
Switch is a 1991 American fantasy comedy film written and directed by Blake Edwards. Based on George Axelrod's play Goodbye Charlie (and the 1964 film of the same title), the film stars Ellen Barkin, Jimmy Smits, JoBeth Williams, and Lorraine Bracco.
Ad man Steve Brooks (Perry King)--a promiscuous misogynist and quintessential chauvinist--is invited to a deadly surprise party by three former lovers. Margo (JoBeth Williams), Liz (Lysette Anthony) and Felicia (Victoria Mahoney) try to drown him in the hot tub. When that fails, Margo shoots him point blank in the chest, and he dies.
In Purgatory, God (voiced by Linda Gary and Richard Provost) tells Steve he has one chance at redemption. He is returned to Earth, alive, and told that he must find a female who truly loves him. If he fails, he will go to Hell.
The Devil (Bruce Payne) thinks this is too easy. Steve's infamous charm might easily seduce some innocent. God agrees and Steve is transformed into a beautiful woman (Ellen Barkin). He chooses the name Amanda. After the change, Amanda/Steve goes to Margo, convinces her of his real identity and persuades her to give him lessons in being a woman.
Telling everyone that Steve has run off "like Gauguin" and that she is his half sister, Amanda moves into Steve's life, convincing his boss at the advertising agency, Arnold Friedkin (Tony Roberts), to give her her brother's job. Part of that job is getting a plum account with lesbian perfume magnate Sheila Faxton (Lorraine Bracco). Steve expects to use his new female body as a weapon in his campaign to get the account and to win a woman's love. Faxton responds, but when it is time to follow through on the seduction, Steve balks. When he tells Margo about this, she reminds him that homophobia was one of the traits that made him so hateful. Amanda breaks up with Faxton, telling her that the romance was contrived to get her as a client. The agency keeps the account, but there is one more woman with reason to hate Brooks.
Brooks prays to God for help, and the Devil appears, offering her a job with his operation. She refuses and goes back to a task she had started some time before: calling all the names in Steve's address book, hoping to find a woman who has something kind to say about him. Instead he discovers just how hated he is, how deeply he damaged countless women.
In the course of the film, Brooks also gets a good look at how the other half lives, and the way men treat him --which is, of course, the way that he treated women--rankles.
Steve's best friend, Walter Stone (Jimmy Smits), has been attracted to Amanda from their first meeting, and when despair sends her on a bender, he goes with her. They get drunk together, and they have sex--even though at this point Amanda has finally convinced Walter that she is Steve.
In the morning, Amanda has no memory of the encounter and accuses Walter of raping her while she was passed out--the sort of thing he himself would have done. Walter is astonished, and insists that Amanda was not only awake but an enthusiastic participant. Steve recognizes the difference between the sort of man he used to be and the far bettering sort of man that his friend Walter is.
Meanwhile, Steve's body has been found in the river, and Margo has planted her gun in Amanda's sofa, framing her for the crime. Amanda is found unfit for trial. In the mental hospital, she learns that she is pregnant with Walter's child. There are dangerous complications, but she insists on carrying the baby to term. Walter proposes, and Amanda reluctantly accepts: They are married. Months pass and, with Walter beside her, Amanda gives birth to a baby girl. The newborn infant gazes at her mother with love, and Amanda dies, having earned a place in Heaven.
There is still one hitch, however. They must decide whether to spend eternity as a man or as a woman. The decision is difficult. They still have not made it when, five years later, they watch as Walter and their daughter bring flowers to her grave.
God, in their dual voices, reassures the soul comprising Steve and Amanda that there is plenty of time. The audience never knows which--or when--they choose.
The film received mixed to negative reviews and holds a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It debuted at No. 2 at the box office. Roger Ebert gave it 2 1/2 out of 3 stars. He saw unfulfilled potential: "If Edwards had somehow found a way to really grapple with the implications of his story - if he had pushed to see how far he could go - "Switch" might have been a truly revolutionary comedy, on the order of "Tootsie" but more sexually frank..."
This film was indirectly referenced numerous times throughout the long-running series Mystery Science Theater 3000. In the original television spots for the film, Jimmy Smits' name was announced in an unusual way: "Ellen Barkin. Switch. Jimmy Smits. Starts Friday." The writers of MST3K found it amusing that Smits' name was announced after the title and not announced as "also starring Jimmy Smits" or "with Jimmy Smits", only as "Jimmy Smits". Smits became a running gag on the series: in various episodes, a character of the show would say "Jimmy Smits" whenever the word "switch" was uttered or sometimes for seemingly no reason at all.
The motion picture was supposed to have a soundtrack composed and arranged by Henry Mancini, who shares composer credits with Don Grady, but Mancini's score was ultimately replaced by a variation of Joni Mitchell's song "Both Sides", done by Paul Young/Clannad. Both the unused Mancini score and the pop song soundtrack were produced on CD in 1991, as a result of which two motion picture soundtrack albums exist for the film.
Henry Mancini score