Catch and Release **1/2
Directed by Susannah Grant
Written by Susannah Grant
Jennifer Garner as Gray Wheeler
Timothy Olyphant as Fritz
Sam Jaeger as Dennis
Kevin Smith as Sam
Juliette Lewis as Maureen
Joshua Friesen as Mattie
Fiona Shaw as Mrs. Douglas
124 Minutes(Rated PG-13 for sexual content, language and some drug use)
"Catch and Release" is a bit of a surprise, telling an age old story and then managing to sidestep all the normal cliches that it would normally have-and for that I am most thankful. Of course, it isn't perfect, and there are quite a number of scenes that I have seen before, but for its target audience it is somewhat delightful, and they will get the most out of it. Everyone else might find themselves groaning just a little bit, but not too loudly. It is also somewhat unbelievable, and these characters change a little too quickly.
"Catch and Release" begins with a death-the death of Gray Wheelers fiancee, where the cause of death is still unknown to me. I don't think they went into detail on it, but it doesn't matter. At the funeral she is still not over it, and hides in the bathroom for a large chunk of it. Two people-her fiance's best friend Fritz, and one of the caterers-don't seem to be grieving that badly, as Gray is forced to endure listening to them have some quick and pointless sex. She makes herself known after the caterer leaves, leaving Fritz embarrassed. Gray never liked Fritz anyway, which is exactly why she will have to fall in love with him by the time the movie is finished. Gray can't afford to live in her rented home, and was depending on getting married to have a roof over her head, so she moves in with Sam and Dennis-another two of her fiancees best friends. Sam is the guy that puts the quotes on tea boxes, so every now and then he provides meaningful insight from a famous author or public speaker, and Dennis is the friend that has had to sit for the last six years while his best friend has the woman that he would rather be with. I think we've all been that guy. And then Gray begins to find out that the man she thought she knew the last few years is exactly the opposite. Not only did he fool around with another woman in LA whenever he would visit Fritz, but he also had a three year old son that he would send three thousand dollars to every month for child support. The mother, Maureen, eventually comes looking for him as she didn't get any money from him for two months, meets Gray and the rest of the gang, and finds herself staying in the house too, and of course Gray finds herself falling for Fritz, who turns out to be different than the person she always thought he was.
There's a few things that this avoids, even though the plot sounds very cliche ridden and sappy. For example, there isn't a single character here that you could really hate. Even the typically annoying characters you end up liking. For example, the character that is normally the evil mother in law ends up showing many human characteristics towards the end. The mother in law wants the engagement ring back, and she doesn't relish the idea of giving any money to this person that may or may not be his son. But at the same time we see that she is just grieving. She isn't evil or a bad person, she is just upset. She did loose her son after all. And then Dennis, the man who is secretly in love with Gray, seems creepy at first, and kind of a jerk. After all, he is making advances to a woman that just lost her future husband, but then we realize that he is conflicted. He is upset that his friend died, but at the same time he is probably a little happy that he is out of the way. Maybe he has a chance now. Even the Maureen character sidesteps the typical "whorish mother who is really the enemy to the main character," and ends up being a bit of a saving grace, bringing most of the wit to the entire film. And all of the characters are probably conflicted, as they thought so highly of this man that ended up being the exact opposite of the person they thought he was. There is a bit of conflict here hidden within all the characters, but the script doesn't allow that aspect to shine very much.
Writer Susannah Grant seems to be more concerned with telling a typical story as opposed to showing more breath into these characters. This conflict could have been fleshed out more, and I wish they focused more on that than the ridiculously contrived love story between Fritz and Gray. That was a bit unbelievable, and I couldn't see anything in their attraction aside from some vulnerability and grief. The relationship portion also paved the way for some awful dialogue:
Gray: What's your favorite color?
I mean seriously. Did Grant name Gray that just so that she could add that little "clever" line in there? Probably.
The acting is halfway decent. Jennifer Garner isn't too bad, but this role isn't as complex as it should have been. The same goes for Timothy Olephant. Then you have Kevin Smith, who is being himself. Smith doesn't have the acting ability to go past that laid back, casual, drunk, but we end up loving him anyway. He also brings in some dialogue that seems to come from something he wrote, making me wonder if he added a bit of Smith to his character. "Catch and Release" is somewhat underwritten, focusing on the typical Hollywood romance aspects as opposed to being the subtle character piece that it should have been. But when this better aspect unravels itself, it becomes a somewhat rewarding and interesting film. It certainly isn't perfect, but it is decent, and rather enjoyable. Those looking for this kind of romance-comedy-drama will have a good time. It isn't a bad film at all.