Not a keeper


The same thing we do every day, Gray (Jennifer Garner): try and take over the world.
Catch and Release
Dir. and writ. Susannah Grant; feat. Jennifer Garner, Timothy Olyphant, Kevin Smith, Juliette Lewis, Sam Jaeger (PG-13)
Catch and Release is one of those movies that sounds like a good idea on paper, but turns out to be confusing on far too many levels to actually work in any dimensional reality. It’s a romantic comedy, but it’s also a drama about death and recovery. It co-stars Kevin Smith, aka Silent Bob, a hero of independent filmmakers everywhere, but is clearly a commercial venture that offered him nothing more than a paycheck. It was written and directed by Susannah Grant, who was nominated for an Academy Award for penning Erin Brockovich, but Release’s script lacks any of Brockovich’s intelligence or substance.

The “fun” starts with a funeral instead of a wedding, since the groom-to-be managed to off himself during the white water rafting bachelor party. The bride-to-be, Gray (Jennifer Garner), is understandably crushed and then downright shocked when she finds her dead fiancé’s alleged best friend Fritz (Timothy Olyphant) banging a waitress in the bathroom after the funeral.

Over the next few days, Gray discovers a few other things: she can’t make rent on her house, her deceased fiancé had a million dollars in a secret bank account (that she’s not entitled to), and he also had an illegitimate son living in LA whom he was supporting. With few options left, Gray moves in with her fiancé’s friends Sam (Smith) and Dennis (Sam Jaeger), who are also struggling with the loss and dealing with it in creative ways like overeating, attempting suicide, building peace gardens, and confessing love for Gray.

Fritz is also crashing on the couch, since there’s unfinished business left to attend to, like helping Gray deal with the news that her supposedly perfect man was utterly imperfect. Surprise, surprise: It turns out Fritz ain’t such a lecher after all.

This is supposed to be a movie about loss and discovering who we are by discovering the truth about who we lost. Or some such nonsense. It’s a head-scratching affair that manages a blah, intermediary tone between romance and grief, but that tone is consistently undermined by Garner’s performance; barely a scene goes by without her looking like she’s about to cry. In fact, she looks like a 12-year-old trying to play an adult, which is probably more the fault of genetics than talent.

More inexplicable is the presence of Smith, who has taken to calling himself a whore these days. He proves here that he’s far more interesting when he speaks, but one can’t shake how inauthentic it feels to see this indie-rebel pimping himself for a buck.

It’s Grant’s work here that is most baffling, though. This is her first directorial opportunity and, while she proves herself adequate, managing pace and the aforementioned tone, she’s abandoned the substantive, honest subject matter she tackled with success in Brockovich, In Her Shoes, and even this winter’s Charlotte’s Web. Someone must have suggested that she try to become the next Nora Ephron, but, judging from Catch and Release, her Sleepless In Seattle is still a long way off. 

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