Catch and Release (2006) / Comedy-Romance

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual content, language and some drug use
Running Time: 124 min.

Cast: Jennifer Garner, Timothy Olyphant, Kevin Smith, Juliette Lewis, Sam Jaeger, Joshua Friesen, Fiona Shaw
Director: Susannah Grant
Screenplay: Susannah Grant
Review published January 27, 2007

Jennifer Garner (Elektra, 13 Going on 30) plays Gray Wheeler, who suffers the tragic loss of her fiance, Grady, just before their wedding.  Her friends are there to help cheer her up as best they can, but she soon finds out there is more to Grady than she had ever known.  For one thing, he left behind a great deal of money.  For another, he was also paying someone about $3000 a month for reasons unknown.  When phone calls start coming in from a mysterious source asking for more money, Grady's best friend Fritz (Olyphant, The Girl Next Door) finally divulges that Gray's would-be husband actually fathered a child with a woman he had a fling with a few years back.  This complicates things, as Gray not only feels like she never really knew Grady at all, but also the young boy (Friesen) is set to inherit Grady's money and assets, as there is no known will.  Meanwhile, though originally thought to be just another playboy, Gray soon finds herself irresistably drawn to Fritz despite not really sure of his character as well.

Susannah Grant, who had previously been on a roll as the screenwriter for such beloved womens films like Erin Brockovich (for which she received an Academy Award nomination), Ever After, and In Her Shoes, comes back down to Earth in her first foray into directing.  Unlike the films directed at the hands of others, Grant's own film is a bit of a thematic mess, meandering though sketchy characters and an inconsistent tone that keep the film from ever finding the necessary footing for most audience members to relate to on a personal level.  

For a film that seemingly has no story at its center, there are a surprising amount of subplots explored.  Grady's friend Dennis (Jaeger, Hart's War) reveals the years-old torch he carries, while he also like to go fly fishing from time to time with his roommate Sam (Smith, Clerks II).  Meanwhile, Sam finds himself befriending Grady's dish on the side, Maureen.  Grady's mother gets in the act from time to time to see to it that her son's memory stays as perfect as she remembers, despite all evidence to the contrary.  What does any of this have to do with Gray's burgeoning romance with the Malibu playboy?  About the same as any of it has to do with anything else in the universe -- absolutely nothing.  

Most people that are attracted to Catch and Release enough to view it are probably only doing so for the appearance of Jennifer Garner, or perhaps Kevin Smith, who has a sizable supporting role.  Despite the quirkiness of the characters, they do acquit themselves well enough, as Grant does allow her actors to modify their lines and words in ways that play better to their natural personalities.   Unfortunately, even attractive, charismatic personalities aren't enough to energize a story that lacks basic narrative cohesion, playing more often for emotional conflicts about what people really want, who they are, and why they do what they do.   They all seek answers, but sadly, they find none.  At over two hours (very rare for a romantic dramedy), we come out of it empty, both emotionally and intellectually.  

The only lesson we learn is that everyone is flawed, we never truly know someone, and nothing ever really happens for a reason.  At least, I think that's the lesson, as the movie itself is flawed, we never really know any of these characters, and nothing within it ever happens for a reason.

Qwipster's rating: 

2007 Vince Leo