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Switch Up: SXSW Film Review

A woman has her hands on a smiling man's chest in a loving way, by the beach, in the film Switch Up

Though telling a story with seasoned tropes, Switch Up has an authentic spirit, visiting topics of compassion, charity and humaneness in a playful manner. 

Tara Pirnia’s Switch Up premiered at SXSW in Austin this past weekend and it’s a delight, when you don’t think too hard about it: It’s upbeat, campy, and doesn’t take itself too seriously while still staying morally robust by relishing in wholesome topics. A self-indulgent morning host from Miami named Ricardo de la Cruz (Cristián de la Fuente) travels to small town Brownsville, Texas to do “charity work” to boost his show’s ratings (which means a brief appearance at a homeless shelter, in his terms). While he’s there, news comes out that he is being accused of being in a ponzi scheme, essentially ending his precious fame right then and there. With nowhere else to go, Ricardo ends up homeless and on the streets, just like he was when he was young. Despite the disastrous circumstances, it ends up being for the best for Ricardo enduring this brings his ego back to Earth. 

Now, Ricardo is trapped in Texas by the FBI, bank account frozen and no more TV show to host, and without his Instagram influencer girlfriend (Katherine Kozumel). Ricardo retreats back to “House of Hope”, the homeless shelter run by Cassie Harris (Julieth Restrepo) where he was just days prior as the guest of honor, where he refused to even scoop food for those eating there. Enter the found family trope: now living a life that is a complete 180 from his all too recent TV host days, Ricardo meets and connects with those in the Brownsville community, who change his look on life. Out of these people, one of the most important for Ricardo is Charlie (Jeff Fahey), and his dog (aptly named Dog), who teaches Ricardo that “self respect begins with a job.” 

With the help of his newfound community, Ricardo works his way back up, but with a different set of moral values. Through his struggle, he’s learning to be more open and empathetic — basically, a normal human being. A primary plotline of the movie is Ricardo’s enemies-to-lovers relationship with Cassie, but their relationship’s development lacks too much substance for it to be proper rom-com material. I didn’t particularly find myself rooting for them or really yearning for them to get together, She didn’t like him because he was a stuck up famous guy, he watches one of the dance classes she teaches, they go to the beach together, have a down-to-earth conversation, sparks fly and they start to fall for each other. It’s charming, but nothing out of the ordinary.

A woman has her hands on a man's chest in a loving way, by the beach, in the film Switch Up
Switch Up (Future Sight Entertainment, SXSW 2024)

As the romance is brewing and Ricardo is doing the dirty work to become a decent person again, Richard’s producer Marie (Shonderella Avery) gets kidnapped by a junior producer named Maclane (Temple Baker), a ditzy frat-boy who is under instruction of Marcus (R. Brandon Johnson), a back-up star of Ricardo’s morning show who wanted Ricardo gone so he could be at the center of the show. Though silly, this kidnapping subplot is thoroughly entertaining and showcases Baker’s ability to deliver chuckle-worthy lines that only a himbo would vocalize.

Switch Up has all the tropes a rom-com you discover while flipping through channels usually does: it’s almost as if the film was trying to intentionally tick off boxes. Despite this, seeing Ricardo reconnect with himself and his humble roots, as well as those around him, still makes it an inspiring watch. The film’s Texas flair adds to its charitable charm, and by the end, viewers will be rooting for Ricardo, his heart, and for House of Hope.

Switch Up was screened at SXSW on March 10, 2024. Read our SXSW reviews!

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