Review by Mark Walters


So I'm not big on "chick flicks" at all, and after seeing the trailer for CATCH AND RELEASE I had a rather uneasy feeling that was exactly what this film would be.  To an extent it is, but in a way it's not what you'd expect.  It seems that despite Jennifer Garner's successful run with the popular show ALIAS, she's not had much luck with her theatrical roles.  Her two previous big screen leading roles, 13 GOING ON 30 and ELEKTRA, left critics and audiences a little let down.  But we know she's a good actress, and with the right material there's no reason why she shouldn't be able to make the jump to a proper motion picture career.  So is this the one that will usher that in?

  The film opens at a wake, where Gray Wheeler (Garner) is mourning the death or her fly fishing fiancé, joined by his mother (Fiona Shaw) and friends Dennis (Sam Jaeger) and Sam (Kevin Smith).  During what she wanted to be an "alone" moment, she is rather disturbed by a lewd act from another of her fiancé's friends Fritz (Timothy Olyphant).  After the wake she tries to get leftover affairs sorted out, and discovers that her lost love had quite a bit of money, some of which was being sent to a mysterious woman for unknown reasons.  Not able to keep her house, she ends up moving in with Dennis, Sam, and Fritz.  As time passes she learns the man she loved had more than a few secrets, none of which she ever suspected.  The mysterious woman, Maureen (Juliette Lewis), shows up with a child, which is suspected to be Gray's fiancé's.  In her grief and confusion, Gray oddly finds comfort with Fritz.  But is their relationship based on love, or just convenience?

  Now on the surface this appears to be one of those movies where the girl loses someone, and finds someone else to fill that void.  But there's more than that going on here.  CATCH AND RELEASE is a study in unexpected discovery, both in old love and new love.  These days no one, despite how close they may be, seems to really know everything about the ones they're with.  As Gray learns things about her recently deceased love, she tries to understand things about herself.  Her fiancé's friends become very close friends for her, and ultimately help her deal not only with the loss but also with starting things over.  The performances are pretty solid for the most part.  Garner is endearing and lovable as Gray.  She exhibits a quality that audiences will identify with and find at times adorable.  But the supporting characters are the real strong point of the film.  Kevin Smith plays Sam, the hippie-like buddy who has his own issues regarding the loss of his best friend.  Bottom line, he is hilarious.  I'm so glad we finally get a chance to see Kevin in a mainstream film with a major role like this.  That's not to discredit his appearances in his own films as Silent Bob, but this is Kevin Smith proving that he can act with the best of them.  I loved him in the role, and I loved his character.  Aside from his funny dialogue, of which there is a considerable amount, he even gets a rather emotional moment which he sells very well.  Sam Jaeger is also rather good as Dennis, the friend who has strong hidden feelings for Gray, and has brought his own life to a standstill as a result.  I bought into him and Kevin being housemates, and together their relationship works and serves the story nicely.  Juliette Lewis also gets some nice moments as Maureen, the eccentric massage therapist who is nothing like Gray, and yet had her own unique connection with the man these people lost.  Her son Mattie, played by Joshua Friesen, might make you think twice about having kids.  His fishing scene with Sam is easily one of the most memorable and shocking moments of the movie.  Now let's talk about Timothy Olyphant.  Fritz may be the one part of the film I had the biggest problem with.  As a character, he's not a great guy by any means.  He's not the sort of fella you necessarily want to see our heroine end up with.  Why does Gray turn to Fritz?  Is it because he's the best looking guy in the house?  Is it because he's the most mysterious of the friends?  I didn't get it.  At no point did I feel like Fritz really helped, or even tried to help Gray.  He's just there, and they strangely end up together.  Oh, and relax, because that's not a spoiler.  They get together early on.  The question is can their relationship become anything meaningful?  From the first time we meet the guy, he's kind of a slimeball.  So I ask, what exactly is it that Gray sees in this dude?  I admire the film for going against type on many issues we so often see in romantic comedies, but I would've liked a more respectable leading man.  I guess in the end this isn't supposed to be a love story, but rather a film about how to restart your life after a tragic event.  Granted, it's not my cup of tea, but for what it is I enjoyed many aspects of it.  Garner's strong performance and the great performances from the supporting cast make this familiar territory comfortable to walk across... for the most part. score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best, I give CATCH AND RELEASE a 7.

Visit the official Sony Pictures CATCH AND RELEASE movie website by clicking here.

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