‘Catch and Release’: This one’s a keeper

Thu, 02/01/2007 - 3:35pm
By: Emily Baldwin

“Catch and Release,” Susannah Grant’s (“Erin Brockovich”) latest film to hit theaters, is a kind of all over-the-place look at life, love and self discovery and, for me, the film’s sporadic nature is sort of the point. Just like life, “Catch and Release” can’t be neatly fit into a little box of happiness and laughter and the heart of the film is the three dimensional nature of both the characters and the story and their depiction of the hardships and triumphs of life.

Gray Wheeler (Jennifer Garner) is devastated when her fiancé is killed in a tragic freak accident just before their wedding. Her efforts to regain a semblance of the life she once knew without the man she adored are aided by her fiancé’s trio of friends: Sam (Kevin Smith) is the goofy and light hearted friend who uses comedy to lighten the mood; Dennis (Sam Jaeger), who is secretly in love with Gray, acts as the sensitive care-taker, eager to help Gray through this tragedy; and Fritz (Timothy Olyphant), the childhood pal, is a Los Angeles hot shot who Gray sees as an irresponsible playboy she gave up faith in years before.

After the funeral, the real hardships begin to surface: without a partner, Gray can’t afford her home and is forced to move in with the trio of friends; a mystery bank account reveals there is more to her fiancé than she once knew; and a bohemian, massage therapist from Encino (Juliette Lewis) comes to town with a child who looks strikingly like Gray’s intended. From there the questions begin to bubble, and Gray is forced to put the pieces together to discover, for the first time, who her fiancé really was. In the process she discovers herself and realizes that her fiancé was not the right man for her after all.

In many ways, “Catch and Release” could be labeled your average romantic comedy with convenient scenarios, a la moving in with the boys and falling for her fiancé’s best friend, but it also seems to reach beyond that into a realm of its own.

Garner shines as always as the devastated bride-to-be. Her ire toward Fritz’s lack of emotion at the death of his best friend is conveyed with contempt and sadness alike. Because there is no real timeline for the film, it is difficult to gauge how realistic Gray’s transition from a crushed single to a strong, independent woman is, but Garner’s portrayal of Gray as someone who comes out better on the other side of tragedy invests the audience’s emotions into her story.

Smith is funny in a way that is unlike his typical line of humor, while still getting belly laughs from the audience. His ability to turn Sam into a character with depth makes him seem like your platonic guy friend who always knows how to make you laugh through your tears without belittling an important situation. Lewis, who is a master of quirk, nails the role of the flighty mistress who lands on Gray’s doorstep.

“Catch and Release” won’t be for everyone, but with a funny, heartfelt script, courtesy of Grant, and a cast made for romantic dramedies, it’s one I will be seeing again.


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