Charming and Trendy
Catch and Release, a heartfelt romance about what happens to a young woman when her fiancé dies right before their wedding day, features an interesting story made believable through terrific performances by Jennifer Garner, Timothy Olyphant, Juliette Lewis, Kevin Smith and Sam Jaeger.
Gray Wheeler (Garner) couldn't have had the worst "best" day of her life. In the church where she's supposed to be getting married, the funeral service for her fiancé Grady is being held instead. Her wedding dress will never be worn; the wedding cake is hidden away; and the flowers intended to cheer now bring tears.
As if that wasn't enough to deal with, Gray can no longer afford the house the couple planned to rent, so her things go to storage, and she's offered a room by Grady's best pals. The crazy and spontaneous Sam (Smith), the calm and sensible Dennis (Jaeger) and Grady's childhood friend from California, Fritz (Olyphant), all miss Grady deeply but walk on egg shells to comfort Gray.
While trying to take care of Grady's financial details, Gray discovers he has a large bank account with the interest going to a woman in LA. She finally worms the details out of Fritz: Grady had a one-night stand when visiting Fritz, and it resulted in a son. Fritz tells Gray it happened before she was in the picture, and that the boy is about seven years old. Gray, already disgusted with Fritz for something he did at the funeral, distrusts him even more after learning this secret.
Sam does a good job creating laughter in the house by ogling Gray's wedding presents, while Dennis finds himself becoming attracted to Gray. Grady and his buds were avid fishermen, so Dennis busies himself with a memorial peace garden for Grady by the fishing shack in Boulder (Colorado) where they live.
One day, as Gray is leaving the house she meets a blonde woman and a three-and-a-half-year- old boy on the sidewalk. When Maureen (Lewis) asks if this is Grady's place, Gray knows instantly who she is, and she realizes Fritz lied to her about when Grady’s affair took place. She stomps off to the fishing shack where she corners Fritz inside and slaps him. He grabs her hand to stop her, and instantly they're entwined in a passionate kiss. When they come up for air, they're both at a loss for words.
Gray goes through a roller coaster of emotions, and the all the guys continue to offer support while trying to figure out what to do with Maureen and her son Mattie. Gray is unsure of the relationship she had with Grady, and wonders why Fritz is so intent on protecting her as well. As they spend more and more time together, Fritz and Gray cannot deny they have feelings for each other. They become bed mates, but when Dennis questions Gray about her feelings for Fritz, she replies, "It's nothing." Fritz overhears this statement, packs his bag and leaves for LA the next day.
What makes Catch and Release so enjoyable is Susannah Grant's wonderful screenplay and her proficient debut direction. As she proved with the Academy Award-nominated Erin Brockovich and the very funny yet poignant In Her Shoes, Grant can capture the essence of real life few screenwriters achieve. Her characters are real people we know; her stories could be our own.
"The tone of this film is unusual because it isn't a drama and it isn't a comedy," explained Grant, "but to me, that's what life is -- a lot of both. You know the old saying: tragedy plus time equals comedy."
Garner does a terrific job projecting the dual emotions of heartache and comedy required of her character. Although he's appeared in several feature films including The Girl Next Door and Dreamcatcher, Olyphant is probably more noted for his role as Marshall Bullock in HBO's Deadwood. As Fritz, Olyphant offers up a charmer who’s not only irresistible, he's sincere and wildly attractive.
Smith (Clerks II), a director and writer, takes on his first major role here and does such a great job I hope to see him on the big screen more often. Lewis (Aurora Borealis) always has a versatility to her talent, and it serves her well in portraying the drifty but good-intentioned Maureen. Jaeger (Lucky Number Slevin) has a nice subtlety to his style that rounds out Dennis's desire to create a peaceful balance among all of his friends.
I think Catch and Release will entertain both sexes because of its focus on real-life possibilities and the way its characters traverse the highs and lows of their lives. It's the perfect Valentine Date Movie.
(Released by Sony Pictures Entertainment and rated “PG-13” for sexual content, language and some drug use.)
Review also posted at www.reviewexpress.com.