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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In your traditional Hollywood romantic comedy, the woman usually has a simple goal -- find Mr. Right, get married, and start a family. Ahhh, but how times have changed.
In Jennifer Aniston's new comedy "The Switch," which lands in movie theaters on Friday, her character Kassie has set her sights somewhat lower. The single, 40-something New Yorker decides that if she can't find Mr. Right, she can at least find Mr. Perfect Sperm Donor and have the baby she's always wanted -- quickly, efficiently and without a man in her life.
Single motherhood, and the biological drive to reproduce, are the issues that attracted Aniston to the project.
"Women are realizing it, more and more knowing, that they don't have to settle with a man just to have that child," Aniston told reporters when promoting the film.
"Times have changed and that is also what is amazing...we do have so many options these days, as opposed to our parents' days when you can't have children because you have waited too long," she said.
Those comments landed Aniston in a small war of words last week with conservative Fox TV news commentator Bill O'Reilly. On his "The O'Reilly Factor," the self-styled traditionalist said Aniston's message was the equivalent of saying kids don't need dads and added "that's destructive to our society."
In a subsequent People magazine interview, Aniston countered that "of course, the ideal scenario for parenting is obviously two parents of a mature age, then added, "but for those who've not yet found their Bill O'Reilly, I'm just glad science has provided a few other options."
Aside from their back-and-forth, and as happens in the movie, the question of alternative means of birth and raising kids can grow complicated as much as it does in traditional child rearing and families.
In the case of "The Switch," Kassie's neurotic best friend Wally (Jason Bateman), who has always had a crush on her, gets drunk at her "insemination party" and switches fluids with the preferred donor, before passing out. To make matters worse, Wally has no memory of his actions.
Seven years later, after she had moved home to Minnesota to raise her child, Kassie returns to New York with son Sebastian in tow, a bright but neurotic kid who alarmingly reminds Wally of himself. Soon, Wally and Sebastian are bonding and laying the foundations for some sort of family unit.
While Wally's drunken, sperm-switching powers the film's comedy, Aniston said "The Switch" also raises serious questions about the nature of families, and the star was quick to stress that single parenthood is no longer the taboo it once was.
"It's quite beautiful because there are children that don't have homes that (then) have a home and can be loved, and that's extremely important."
She said the point of the movie was to cause people to question what defines a modern-day American family, and Aniston offered her own philosophy that family is the people in your immediate sphere of influence.
"It isn't necessarily the traditional mother, father, two children and a dog named Spot," she said. "That is what I love about this movie. It is saying it is not the traditional sort of stereotype of what we have been taught as a society of what family is."
The star's personal life continues to be the subject of intense media scrutiny since her highly-publicized divorce from Brad Pitt, and predictably she was asked about her own desire to become a mother.
Aniston, now 41 and single, didn't avoid the question and gave what one might call her traditional answer: "Yeah, I have said it years before and I still say it today, yes."
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Jill Serjeant