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March 28, 2014

Date and Switch

by Franz Patrick


Date and Switch (2014)
★★ / ★★★★

Matty (Hunter Cope) and Michael (Nicholas Braun), high school seniors and best friends since childhood, vow to lose their virginity on prom night. It is only then that they are allowed to feast on the “special” brownies they made the night they broke up with their respective girlfriends (Dakota Johnson, Sarah Hyland). But Matty has something to tell Mike. Much to the latter’s surprise, Matty turns out to be gay—even if he is slightly out of shape and loves to wear cargo shorts.

“Date and Switch,” written by Alan Yang and directed by Chris Nelson, is amusing and silly even though the actors do not resemble high school students and some of the situations feel as if they are taken right off a mediocre sitcom. I enjoyed it for two reasons. First, it is nice to see a coming out story where the character who turns out to be gay very rarely matches gay stereotypes. Second, the fulcrum of the movie is, surprisingly, not Matty but Michael, the friend who is well-meaning but ill-equipped to handle change.

Though the performers do a good job in general, there are times when it is near impossible to not notice their age. For example, when Braun and Cope walk down the hallways of the high school and the camera rests on random high school students’ faces and then back to the leads, the age difference is significant and distracting. We are taken out of the moment for a period of time and so when a dramatic scene occurs within the next ten to fifteen minutes, we are reminded that we are watching a performance. Thus, an otherwise well-written scene comes off false at times.

There are ironic touches where the screenplay is wise not to push too hard. For instance, in his attempt to support his friend for being gay, Michael is the one who ends up having more fun in gay bars and clubs. The situational comedy works on top of Matty and Michael’s appearance. I decided to watch the film without knowing much about it other than one friend coming out to another. I expected Michael to be the one who was gay. To further poke fun of this, there is a running joke—executed in a slow burn approach in order to really highlight the our feelings of being uncomfortable—involving Michael’s father (Nick Offerman) being convinced that his son is sexually attracted to other guys.

I found it refreshing that the movie does not result to Matty realizing eventually that he has romantic feelings for his best friend. Instead, the two of them have special someones even though there are moments when it gets… somewhat complicated. I wished, however, that Greg (Zach Cregger), Matty’s potential boyfriend, had gotten more screen time. Though we recognize the characteristics that make him a good match for Matty initially, what else is there to him? He utters a line or two about his past—one that involves anger issues as well as how certain people reacted when he came out of the closet—but he still does not feel like a whole person divorced from what Matty sees in him.

Another strength of “Date and Switch” is how comfortable it is to show male friendship even if it is rooted on silliness and dorky-ness. The screenplay refrains from pushing every joke to the point where it is only funny because the situation has gotten awkward. As a result, though not every attempt at humor works, it is never boring and it is consistently pleasant. When Michael and Matty hit rough patches, we want them to find a way to forgive—even though it might be difficult—and be friends again.

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