Movie Review - Switch (1991)

by Emily


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Tags: movies 1, tg 1, tgmovie 1, MovieReview 1, tgtransformation 1
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There was one weekend not too long ago I was lamenting on my Discord server about the lack of a good TF/TG movie viewing list.  Sure, I have a few blogs bookmarked that listed all TG media, but I wanted something that focused on movies.  I wanted a list I could look at for the next weekend when I was home with nothing to watch.  Not only that, I wanted to know whether it was worth my time.  

That weekend, one of my readers recommended Zerophilia, and as I was watching that I started thinking about how I would review it. After all, we’ve had discussions on TG novels all of the time.

So I decided I would attempt to make a quasi-recurring segment where I do a movie review.

Which movie should I do first?  Eventually, I’ll open it up to my readers to tell me which movies to watch and review, but for my first, there could only be one choice.

The first TG movie I ever watched.  Switch.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103016/

Written and Directed by: Blake Edwards (I only include this because the title screen calls this movie “Blake Edwards’ Switch”

Country: United States

Language: English

Type of story: Supernatural gender transformation

Does it show the transformation? No

Sexuality: Does not change*

Nudity: Surprisingly, no (one would think it would have it seeing as it was HBO in the 90’s)

How I watched it: I own the DVD I purchased in the mid-2000’s. (Clearly before I owned a Blu-Ray player)

When I last watched it: November 19, 2022


In 1991, I was 11.  At the time, my parents had HBO.  And during that era, after-hours HBO would show adult content. One night, when the rest of the family had already gone to bed, I stayed up and changed the channel to HBO.  That is when Switch came on.


There was something about it that fascinated me.  Brought up feelings I couldn't explain. Something that I could not put into words until decades later.  When I was done watching Switch, I wanted more movies like it.  


My synopsis (spoiler-free): From the director of Breakfast at Tiffanies (1961), Blake Edwards, comes this gender bending comedy about chauvinistic guy, Steve Brooks.  Steve is such a an ass, he was murdered by his former girlfriends. Upon his death, he ends up in purgatory. He can’t get into heaven because every single woman he’s ever met hates him. So God and the Devil make a pact and send him back to Earth in an attempt to find one woman who genuinely likes him. The Devil makes it interesting by saying Steve has to do this as a woman.  So Steve - now Amanda (Ellen Barkin) sets out trying to call up former female acquaintances to try to find someone who actually likes the late Steve. Along the way, she blackmails Steve’s killer, Margo (JoBeth Williams), rejoins Steve’s old advertising firm, befriends Steve’s best friend Walter (Jimmy Smits), and uses her new feminine wiles to court potential client, Shiela (Lorraine Bracco).


* * Spoilers ahead * *


The transformation: This is done entirely off scene.  Steve wakes up alive and in his own body and starts to get ready for the day, until the Devil complains that the task is too easy. When God agrees, we then cut to see feminine feet trying to pee while standing up.  Of course next we get the clichéd “where did my dick go” scream.


What’s interesting is that Amanda, (after her initial freak-out of course), accepts what’s happened, and comes up with an excuse as to where Steve went and introduces herself as Steve’s half-sister. There’s no bargaining or denial. She accepts that Steve died and tells people he went away for a long time and isn’t coming back… like Gauguin (in a recurring joke that went over my head every single time.  I had to Google the French artist.)


Blackmail is a girl’s best friend?: How does Amanda, who has no clothing, no ID, no house, no job or money, make it in New York City?  Blackmail.  Most of the first half of the movie is Amanda blackmailing everyone. She gets to stay in Steve’s apartment. She gets Steve’s job.  She convinces Steve’s killer to take her out on a shopping spree - and pay for it.  Apparently Steve had a lot of dirty secrets on everyone.


Barkin’s Performance: Ellen Barkin is awesome here at pretending to be a man trapped in a woman's body.  Her mannerisms and language make it a very humorous performance. Between her attempts to walk in heels or the way she sits spread-eagle, tosses her hair around, or her gruff macho language, she’s very good at this and makes it very believable.


Amanda’s Character Arc: While watching Switch, I felt like I wanted to compare it to Sam (2017) Which feels like a remake of this.  But since Switch is 26 years older,  I shouldn’t make those comparisons.  Amanda does have a slow arc.  Slower than one would expect as she doesn’t get a Pretty-Woman-esq makeover.  She does start to defend women while getting ogled.  She also hesitated to take advantage of Sheila showing that she stopped considering women as conquests. The old Steve totally would’ve shagged Sheila and bragged about how he was able to score with a lesbian.


Sexuality: I put an asterisk next to ‘Does not change.”  The fact of the matter is that the movie doesn’t address Amanda’s sexuality.  Sure, she flirts with Sheila, but can’t stomach PDA with her.  Margo says its because Steve is homophobic. You could also interpret it as Amanda is straight.  But that’s not a given either because she never seeks out men and only had a platonic relationship with Walter.  I offer a third interpretation.  Steve/Amanda is asexual.  Steve uses sex as power. The brief Steve portrayal in the beginning shows him kissing his three would-be-killers.  He’s less interested in the act of sex than in the power he holds over them.  As Amanda, she doesn’t want to sleep with Sheila and is repulsed by Walter’s date rape.  In fact, when she does marry Walter, she doesn’t even want to kiss him. When she first met Walter she was enjoying the power she had over men as they were checking her out.  I think she’s ace. It’s all about power, not the sexual attraction.


How it ends:  After spending 5 months in a mental hospital under prison watch, she’s now pregnant with Walter's baby.  She was tempted to go through with an abortion but changed her mind last minute with win God’s favor. The doctors told her childbirth could kill her, so she and Walter get married to make sure the baby will be cared for.  When Amanda gives birth to her daughter she feels the unconditional love the newborn is giving her.  Now that Amanda has found one female to love her, she dies a minute after childbirth.  God grants her entrance into heaven and she watches down on her daughter and Walter.


Random Notes:  

There is a rather serious moment that dives into consent when a drunk Amanda and Walter have sex.  Amanda claims she was date raped.  It’s a serious topic for a comedy.  After that scene, the topic is dropped because the movie has to setup its ending with Amanda getting framed for Steve’s murder and her subsequent pregnancy due to the date rape.  


After Amanda dies, God asks her what gender angel she wants to be.  This segment is lazy on Blake Edwards' part.  1. ) Why does an angel need a gender?  2.) Just have Amanda choose to be female.  This would complete her arc and establish her as transgender.  Leaving her undecided is lazy (or maybe groundbreaking for 1991… but meh).


What I disliked about it? 

  • I wish they had a real transformation.  I know they had morphing effects in 1991 because Star Trek VI did it.  

  • It’s dated.  Totally 90s. I think being in an advertising firm in New York was the pinnacle of success in the early 90s.  The music, the obsession with Gauguin, and the problematic tokenism of gays and lesbians. 

  • I also wish Amanda started to embrace her femininity and to act like it.  Sure, she finally learns to walk in heels, but she’s still doing her best male in a female body impression five months into her transformation - even while pregnant.

  • Oh - and she dies at the end.  Sure. The whole plot of the movie was for her to get into heaven, but having her go through a character arc, only to have her die in childbirth is a bummer.


What I liked about it? Nostalgia mostly.   Barkin’s physical comedy is humorous.  It’s also fun to see some of the cameos from actors who hadn’t made it yet. Smits before he was a stereotypical cop and Senator in the Star Wars prequels. A young Téa Leoni before she made it big pops up in a scene. Also, since there aren’t many TG/TF movies out there, it’s hard to hate it. It’s worth a watch for that fact alone.  Although, you should watch it before the newer movies because newer movies have improved on the premise.

So what do you think? Have you seen Switch? Did you like it? Which movie should I review next? Discuss in the comments or on my Discord server in the #movie-reviews channel.

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Emily

Hi, I'm Emily and I'm writing Gender Transformation Fiction! This site is a place for my to keep all of my stories in one place. I'm also a software developer in the daytime, so this site will also be a proving ground of cool new features that pop into my head. Feel free to message me on Twitter or at my Discord Server! You can also find me on TGStorytime.com and FictionMania.tv.

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marter

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marter

Not sure why I can post now but not before, but when I was a kid the movie that I obsessed over was Dr Jeckel and Miss Hyde. I haven't seen it in a very long time though
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Emily

You found a bug. I'll have to fix that tonight.
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Emily

It's been a while since I've seen Dr Jeckel and Miss Hyde. The problem I have with most Dr.J&H stories is that Hyde is almost always a completely different person.
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marter

Yeah it wound be more interesting if it split the person between good qualities and bad ones only to merge back together when they recombine.
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