CATCH AND RELEASE (Susannah Grant, 2007)
As if the death of her fiancé isn't enough for Gray Wheeler (Jennifer Garner) to face, she must accept that her beloved Grady wasn't who she thought he was. In CATCH AND RELEASE Gray discovers that her husband-to-be was very wealthy. He never hinted that he was rich, but as surprises go, it could be worse...and appears to be. Going through his finances turns up three thousand dollar monthly withdrawals sent to a massage therapist with a child in Los Angeles.
Unable to afford her current home, Gray moves in with her friends Dennis (Sam Jaeger), Grady's business partner at the fly fishing shop, and Sam (Kevin Smith), who finds inspirational quotes to put on herbal tea boxes. While they can give each other much needed support, emotions are swirling around the house. Dennis pines for Gray, especially when it seems that Grady wasn't as good to her as was believed. Sam feels responsible for his friend's death. Complicating matters further is that Grady's friend Fritz (Timothy Olyphant), whose presence is an unexplained irritation for Gray, is also residing there.
One day Maureen (Juliette Lewis) shows up at their Boulder, Colorado home with a little boy in tow. She's seeking some answers about Grady. Gray expects that Maureen is also looking for a sizable inheritance for the son Grady fathered with her. Despite Gray's misgivings about Maureen, she too becomes part of their family-like group.
Jennifer Garner could pull off several identities on ALIAS, but she's completely unconvincing as a grieving bride-to-be in CATCH AND RELEASE. It's as though she's still playing 13 GOING ON 30'S gawky teenager in an adult's body. Garner doesn't seem devastated so much as she's having an extended pout. During a pillow talk scene the actress delivers a misplaced honk of a laugh that is an indication she's trying too hard in the part.
While CATCH AND RELEASE is likely to put a damper on Garner's movie headlining ability, much of the film's faults can be put on writer-director Susannah Grant. The first-time director's other screenplays, including the underrated EVER AFTER and IN HER SHOES, were built around finely drawn female characters. Gray, on the other hand, is so slight that she often fades from prominence despite the film being about her growth during this painful time. (Whenever he's around, Smith's labored Jack Black impersonation pushes everyone else aside for better and, in most cases, for worse.) By the end of CATCH AND RELEASE there should be no questions about what she's learned and how she's become stronger, but the film leaves the lingering impression that she survived despite lacking fortitude.
As unfocused as the sex scene in which it looks like a kaleidoscope fell in front of the camera lens, CATCH AND RELEASE has the shaggy aimlessness more appropriate for Boulder's counterculture community. Most scenes end without purpose. Those that introduce an element to have it pay off much later--a phone call from a woman interested in Dennis and their eventual date--are scenes that should have been cut before filming began.
CATCH AND RELEASE plays as though a salvage job was attempted in the editing room, but you can't spin gold from straw. It's most apparent in a scene with Maureen giving Sam a massage. Aside from desperately hoping it doesn't go where all signs are pointing, the scene is a shambles of transitions in search of laughs. Also, how bad could Gray's big speech about the love of her life be when it's covered with voiceover?
CATCH AND RELEASE draws its title from the fishing philosophy of Gray's fiancé and buddies. The humane thing to do is throw this film back too.