Saturday, September 29, 2012

Catch And Release: Not Quite A Kevin Smith Movie, With Kevin Smith!

The Good: Excellent writing, Decent acting, Interesting characters
The Bad: Somewhat predictable plot, Never truly launches
The Basics: After the death of her fiance, Gray Wheeler begins to learn about the man she was engaged to and discovers his various secrets and those of his friends.

No matter what one thinks of the quality of the films of Kevin Smith, it is hard to argue that they are not memorable. After offending scads of people with Dogma (reviewed here!) and having possibly the only bestiality scene on record in an "R" movie with Clerks 2 (reviewed here!), Kevin Smith basically became indelibly rooted in the collective unconscious of American moviegoers. So when Susannah Grant's Catch And Release premiered and the person whose works it seemed most like was Kevin Smith, it seemed funny that Smith himself appears prominently as an actor in the film. Sadly, for as good as Catch And Release is, it never quite gets off the ground, it never becomes quite as memorable as one of Kevin Smith's films.

Gray Wheeler, a woman in her late twenties/early thirties, is preparing for her wedding when she suddenly finds herself hosting a funeral instead. Her fiance dies and Gray's life is caught in something of a freefall. Friends of her fiance, Fritz, Dennis and Sam, help Gray begin to restart her life as they bond over memories of their absent friend. However, the unreliable Fritz soon begins to appear to know quite a bit more than Gray ever did and Fritz refuses to lie to her about such things as her dead fiance's finances and the son he had with another woman. Gray soon finds her life and emotions complicated by Fritz, the boy, and the ex-fling all coming into her life in very real ways.

Catch And Release is charming, entertaining, but little more than that. The film is well written with decent dialogue, though the diction and pacing does seem derivative of a Kevin Smith film. Susannah Grant, who wrote this film, had more of a distinct voice on 28 Days (reviewed here!) a film she wrote the screenplay for, but did not direct. It's strange because the film feels like it's trying to be more hip and clever than it actually is, like it is trying to appeal to the same market as a Kevin Smith film with the phrases and mannerisms it employs, but it just falls flat on that end.

On the writing front, the story works well in the way it unfolds and presents a more complicated narrative than is typical. The film most assuredly focuses on Gray Wheeler, but the peripheral characters like Sam and Dennis seem fully realized as well. Fritz has a story that seems to do more than simply intersect with Gray and that's decent, but it is Maureen (the mother of the boy) who seems to have so much more of her own narrative in the story told and the insinuation of that works to benefit the movie.

And at worst, the characters are fun and interesting. Sam's mental health issues are well placed in the film and are not something that is often highlighted by films or television these days. Similarly, Dennis's romantic obsession with Gray is well-executed as is his inability to bond with anyone else as a result. Fritz is a fun character and it is easy to see why he dominates things like the film's trailer. It is assumed that he is irresponsible and jock-like, but as the film goes on that perception is steadily worn away.

As for Gray, who dominates most of the screentime, she is an interesting enough character and perhaps one of the best moments is when she begins to blurt out characterization at a dinner party (it's in the trailer). It's funny and her character struggle is a worthwhile one as she tries pretty desperately to form a new life now that all of her plans have been overturned. And honestly, the struggles of someone surviving a death, especially the financial ones, are seldom tackled in films, which might be why this movie tops out just a little bit over the average. Gray's struggles and her attempts to bond with those who may have known her fiance better than she did are entertaining and interesting to watch.

And the humor is well balanced in Catch And Release.

What is a little more shaky is the acting. The acting is fine, for the most part, but it's not anything new. Fans of Kevin Smith who have listened to even one of his commentary tracks will find his performance in Catch And Release to be pretty much in tune with the public persona he presents in his commentary tracks, etc. Sure, as Sam, he delivers sage one-liners, but his delivery is very Kevin Smith and it's almost impossible to see through it to divorce his performance from himself in this one. Can Kevin Smith act? Probably, but this isn't the film to prove it.

Similarly, Jennifer Garner provides a performance that is difficult for fans to write home about. Jennifer Garner made her first lasting mark on viewers through her portrayal of Sydney Bristow on Alias, a character whose fiance is killed in the pilot episode. As a result, much of Alias - The Complete First Season (reviewed here!) is obsessed with how Sydney moves on after the murder of her lover. On the acting front, then, what one might want to see from Garner in Catch And Release is something different. We, alas, do not. This is not to say Garner isn't good, but her performance is nothing we have not seen from her before and that's unfortunate.

On DVD, there is a commentary track which is all right and previews for the film. The DVD extras will not light the world on fire, but given the shoestring budget feel of the film (it looks good, but it feels like a small movie), it's to be expected.

Ultimately, Catch And Release is entertaining, it's a romantic comedy with a slightly different bent to it and it works well. But it's not one I'm adding to my permanent collection and while I recommend it, it's mostly for the viewing, not the buy.

For other works with Timothy Olyphant, be sure to check out my reviews of:
I Am Number Four
Meet Bill


For other film reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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