The setting for Catch and Release is Boulder, Colorado, which establishes the tone for the entire movie: relaxed, cozy, and natural. It is refreshing to see a romantic comedy that is not set in a fast-paced, glamorous city, and the atmosphere and the attitude of this film are easygoing and pleasant. So much so that the movie is in danger of falling asleep on itself. Thankfully, two elements save this romantic comedy from being too predictable and boring: unexpected plot turns and Kevin Smith.
Jennifer Garner plays Gray, a woman whose name, ridiculously, is only one letter off from her fiance’s, Grady. The film opens as festive white flowers arrive at a house full of people, apparently for a wedding. The delivery man is turned away, however, as the event at the house is now a funeral – Grady’s. This detail seems peculiar and dark: was there really no other day to hold the funeral? It had to be on the day of the dead man’s wedding? Anyway, Gray finds comfort in Grady’s old friends. There’s the quintessential Nice Guy, Dennis (Sam Jaeger), who tucks Gray in when she’s fallen asleep on the couch, and Sam (Kevin Smith), the slovenly yet poetic buddy who is rarely seen without a beer and/or a waffle. And then there’s sleazy L.A. playboy Fritz (Timothy Olyphant) with the most scarily white teeth I’ve ever seen.
As Gray grieves for her would-be husband, she stumbles upon facts of his past that shock her – including an old flame Maureen (Juliette Lewis) and Maureen’s son, who is presumably Grady’s and whom he had been supporting for years. As Gray unravels this dark side, she finds herself drawn to Fritz — perhaps mesmerized by the brilliance of his teeth — so
The writing is actually not too bad for a movie in this genre. I was especially grateful for the compete lack of overly sentimental flashbacks to Gray and Grady’s “perfect” life together. In addition, I fully expected (with trepidation) some kind of terribly obvious fishing/romance metaphor to rear its tired old head (i.e. "Sometimes you just gotta release the one you catch, you know?"), but it never does.
Still, the script suffers in parts. For one, when a person learns about a betrayal of such magnitude, wouldn’t that person be angry? Livid, perhaps? We see flashes of Gray being upset, frustrated, annoyed ... but where is the rage? She’d been lied to, often and much, and her reaction is, verbatim: "Wow. This is big." I’ll say! Secondly, there’s little sense of any aspect of Gray’s life outside of her romantic crises. Which brings me to my third issue with the film: The ending is inexplicably neat and easy. Does Gray have no other interests or motivations in her life besides boys? None?
Casting Kevin Smith in this role was a stroke of genius, not simply because he fits the role so completely, but because he saves the whole movie. His improvisational acting style makes him stand out from all the other actors, and in being basically himself, he is charming and trustworthy. He reminds me of old friends, and it puts me at ease. He is flawed and sloppy, but always honest, and that is the very best kind of performance. Some of my favorite quotes include: "I am so getting married. This chick’s making out like it's her bar mitzvah," and "This is what God feels like when he catches a fish!"
It is particularly humorous to see this Jersey Boy in the beautiful, fresh, crunchy Colorado environment. Boulder looks sporty and healthful, laid-back and chill, with plenty of greenery, barbecues, and beer. It's the perfect setting to fall in love then recover from finding out awful things about your dead fiancé, then find love again. All in all, it makes for a cute, easygoing movie, neither too sickeningly sweet nor too clever. If I were home sick, I might watch this movie again, just so Kevin Smith could cheer me up.