CATCH AND RELEASE (2007)
Starring Jennifer Garner, Tim Olyphant, Kevin Smith, Sam Jaeger, Juliette Lewis, Fiona Shaw, Joshua Friesen, Tina Lifford, Georgia Craig, Christopher Redman, Joyce Krenz, Sonja Bennett, Yorgo Constantine, Nancy Hower and Jennifer Spence.
Screenplay by Susannah Grant.
Directed by Susannah Grant.
Distributed by Columbia Pictures. 112 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Catch and Release has the worst “meet cute” in Hollywood history. Gray (Jennifer Garner) is a woman whose fiancé has just died mysteriously (it seems to have had something to do with a rafting trip.) At the funeral, she can’t handle the whole thing and therefore hides in bathroom – sobbing quietly in the bathtub, behind the shower curtain. Suddenly the door opens (hasn’t she ever heard of a lock?) and one of her former fiancé’s best buddies (Timothy Olyphant) named Fritz (Fritz??!!) deals with the death in his own personal way – by having a cheap fling on the sink with the caterer. (The woman keeps moaning to him as they have sex, “Sock it to me. Sock it to me. Sock it to me. Sock it to me. Sock it to me.” I thought I was in a time warp to an early 70s Flip Wilson routine.) Then when they are done, the caterer leaves, but the friend hangs in the bathroom for a smoke. Finally, unwilling to wait any longer, Gray tosses the shower curtain open, steps out, flashes Fritz a look to kill and storms out of the room.
Okay, it is not technically a “meet cute” in the traditional Hollywood sense, because the characters supposedly knew each other and felt mutual dislike even before the unexpected bathroom rendez-vous. Still it is where we, as the audience, meet them. You see two characters thrown together by fate like that and feel the genuine hostility and loathing between them – you know that they will be in bed together by half-way through the film. Just the fact that it happens a matter of days after the man she was going to marry (and his best friend) dies – well that makes this movie both a little inappropriate and kind of icky.
Of course writer/director Susannah Grant – who also wrote the Julia Roberts hit Erin Brockovich, which was greatly overrated and rather inappropriate on its own terms (Your kids may be dying, but I think I can get you some big money if you sue…) – keeps trying to stack the deck so that this storyline doesn’t seem quite so heartless.
So, suddenly, after six years together, it turns out this guy had a whole other life which Gray was never allowed into. Turns out he was rich, but no one knew. Also, while in Los Angeles visiting Fritz, he had an affair with a goofy new-age massage therapist (Juliette Lewis.) And with that girl, well… he may just have fathered the world’s worst-behaved four-year-old boy (Joshua Friesen).
Therefore, it’s only natural to fall in love with your dead fiancé’s friend, weeks after you were supposed to be married.
Jennifer Garner, who can be charming and sweet as a comic actress, does her best with this dead-end role, but it’s a lost cause. This is particularly evident in a scene in which all the friends are having an evening barbeque and Gray just suddenly starts blurting out a series of personal secrets, all the while trying to keep it light and a little zany. Her friends, and the audience, squirm uncomfortably as she essentially melts down and gives out all sorts of information never wanted – though she tries to keep it cute and frisky by making weird faces and little sound effects like “ta-da” to punctuate her points.
Olyphant has more to work with – at least his character makes some sense – but we never quite understand what he sees in this neurotic mourning girl.
In the meantime, comic relief is provided by the corpse’s other two best buds (and roommates.) Sam Jaeger is Dennis – the uptight, shy friend. Turns out that he has been harboring a secret passion for Gray all of the years he has known her. (Ooh, didn’t see that coming… yawn…)
Sam is the fat, jovial friend. Director Kevin Smith is actually rather good in the role – his acting as Silent Bob in his own films has never really been all that good, but with actual dialogue, even if it isn’t always great, it turns out Smith is a pretty good light actor. He does some great topical references and there are some reasonable running gags about his job with Celestial Seasonings, though they eventually overstay their welcome.
There are lots of Three’s Company-style complications. Lots of people overhearing (or reading) things they aren’t supposed to. Misunderstandings are not discussed, Feelings are hurt. Harsh words are spoken. People get sappily nostalgic for a dead man they realize they never really knew. There is even an out-of-left-field suicide attempt.
Essentially, though, it’s all about the happy ending. Gray and Fritz realize they love one another. The dead fiancé’s cold mother turns out to be human. The crushing roommate learns to live on his own. The boy wasn’t the dead man’s son. Even the fat roommate and the crazy massage therapist/former mistress find love.
I apologize to anyone who feels that these are spoilers. Normally, I’d never tell how a movie ends – but if any of these developments surprise anyone, then they have never seen a romantic comedy. Every possible rom com cliché is there and accounted for. They all live and love happily ever after. The only people not happy are the ones watching.
On the plus side, the movie, filmed in and around the lovely town of Boulder, Colorado, looks absolutely beautiful. It’s almost worth seeing Catch and Release just for a chance to enjoy this scenic part of the world, which is criminally under-utilized as a film location. Maybe they should have dumped the plot and just made a travelogue.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 18, 2007.