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Catch & Release Print E-mail
Monday, 01 October 2007

Image Despite all the movies I watch, I just don’t get to often enough say, “I just watched a really great movie.” Notice that I didn’t say it was a movie that everyone had to go out and watch. “Catch & Release” probably isn’t for everyone, but for the people who watch it who enjoy a feel-good movie, this Blu-ray disc delivers the goods.

The movie starts out in Boulder, Colorado where most of the action takes place. The scene opens with a voice-over by Jennifer Garner at a funeral, which is generally a weird place for a feel-good movie to begin, but the story deepens quickly and picks up speed right out of the gate. Gray (Jennifer Garner) has just lost her husband-to-be in a tragic accident while he was on his bachelor’s party with his friends.

Garner has always been a very physical actress when it comes to emotions. She honed her skills on the set of “Alias,” the spy television series created by J. J. Abrams. When she’s onscreen at the beginning of “Catch & Release,” you can feel the raw emotion she’s projecting. Her face is cratering and her body is shaken by massive, silent sobs as well-wishers express their condolences.

Kevin Smith plays Sam, one of Grady’s best friends. Smith plays the role to the hilt, managing to not only make Mattie feel good, but also to cause the audience to invest early on. Smith writes comic books and movie screenplays. The movie plays right into his strengths as a friend supporter, vulnerable, and with children. Of all the characters introduced in this film, with all their problems laid bare, Smith’s character is probably the most easily understood and most real.

Sam Jaeger delivers a role filled with quiet strength and confusion. During the six years that Grady dated Gray and finally asked her to marry him, Dennis has silently stood by and pined for her. Though she didn’t know about it, his affection was painfully obvious to the people around them. Timothy Olyphant is striking and disarming all at the same time. He stars as Fritz, the golden boy who was Grady’s best friend out in Los Angeles. Fritz at first appears totally crass and crude. He has sex with a server at Grady’s funeral while Gray (unknown to him) is in the bathtub just trying to be alone. As soon as you see the reaction the two have for each other, you know they’re going to be together. Of course, if you look at the jacket art on the DVD case you know that as well.

If “Catch & Release” had settled for being merely another love story, it wouldn’t have been as interesting as it ultimately is. The movie is more ensemble than star-driven, and it has more than the romance plot that keeps it running. In fact, there are so many twists and turns in the story that the viewer has to stay glued to the action to keep up with what’s going on.

Grady’s death leaves behind a lot of baggage and secrets. In short order Gray finds out that Grady had over a million dollars in a trust fund that he hadn’t told her about. So she’s rich. However, she also discovers that Grady was paying out $3000 a month to someone that she can’t track down.

These mysteries and unexpected twists make the movie so much more interesting than it would be. The great friendship between Dennis and Sam brings a lot of emotional impact to the watcher as well. But the biggest payoff is in laughs. The scene where Gray has been overcome by her medication is priceless. Dennis, wanting to be her savior, picks her up from the couch where she’s fallen asleep and tries to take her to bed. Sam interferes, telling him he needs to chill. They argue a little more and Gray is unceremoniously dropped on the floor, but she’s so medicated that she doesn’t even wake up.

Everybody bears some guilt in the movie, and the forward progression of the relentless plotting brings all those guilts out into the open. Sam starts drinking heavily and won’t go in to work or even get dressed. He faults himself for not stopping Grady from going on the bachelor’s trip. Ultimately he tries to kill himself but doesn’t succeed.

The scenes where Kevin Smith and Jennifer Garner play together are great and solid. In real life, Smith is a good friend of Ben Affleck, Garner’s husband. Affleck starred or did guest spots in some of the movies Smith wrote, and Smith has had guest spots in movies that Affleck has done. Jennifer and Kevin have got a friendship and that comes through.

Dennis’s overtures toward Gray are sad. He so hung up on her that it’s painful to watch.

But it’s Grady ultimately who has the greatest secret. He fathered a child and has been making payments to the mom for the last few years. In the middle of the night, Gray awakes to the chirp of a phone that she can’t identify. She accuses Fritz of leaving his phone in the room, then realizes that the phone was Grady. There were ten calls, all of them from the same number.

Gray quickly figures out that Fritz was trying to cover the secret that Grady was hiding. She then finds out about the child. At first Fritz lies to her and tells her that the affair and the surprise pregnancy took place before Grady hooked up with Gray. It isn’t long before Gray finds out this was a lie, and she gets hurt all over again.

The various storylines get advanced quickly, with just the right amount of attention to them to bring the viewer along. This skillful storytelling is what drives the movie. If plot A doesn’t get you, then plots B or C definitely will.

I think the biggest reason I watched the movie and enjoyed it so much was because I totally understood the characters, their ups and downs and what they were after. Although I suspected the movie had a happy ending for all, there was no way I could expect that each one of the character would work through the issues hanging over their head. The most surprising addition to this ensemble is Maureen Monette (Juliette Lewis), the mother of Grady’s child, Mattie.

The story is laid out so gently that I got sucked in. After the first few minutes I was sure how everything was going to end, and I was right. But it was all the stuff that happened in between that was so good to watch. By the time I could make predictions, the movie took off on a tangent and I was hustling to keep up again.

The extra features are really good, but it’s the commentaries by Susannah Grant, Kevin Smith, and John Lindley that really shine. The stories they tell while the movie rolls are fantastic, and viewers can really get an idea of all the camaraderie that was shared on the set.

“Catch & Release” definitely isn’t a family night movie. The sex scenes are pretty intense, although not revealing, but there’s no doubt about what’s going on. I’d recommend it to people who normally eschew a feel-good second romance movie because the acting is so good and the twists and turns in the plot will catch even the most jaded viewer off-guard. This is going to be one of those guilty pleasure movies that people watch again and again whenever they catch it showing on television.

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