Sunday, May 13, 2007

TRH Movie - Catch and Release

Yet another film I had to review for Chart this weekend, I watched a DVD screener of Catch and Release. Starring Jennifer Garner, Timothy Olyphant, Kevin Smith and Juliette Lewis, the film meanders and aimlessly moves around in a far too subtle way to be effective over the course of its almost two hour run time.

Set adrift after the death of her fiancé, Gray (yes, that's her name, yawn) has to learn to live without Grady, who dies off screen and is never seen in the film with the exception of a few photographs. With her perfect life ruined, oh-so subtly symbolized by the beautiful wedding flowers being turned back at the door and the gorgeous cake rotting away in the fridge, Gray doesn't quite know where to turn. So she bunks down with Grady's friends, Sammy (played by director Kevin Smith) and Dennis (newcomer Sam Jaeger). Oh, and let's not forget Fritz (where did Grant come up with such ridiculous names?), the LA-living bad boy who boffs a waitress in the bathroom during the wake at Grady's mother's house, and who becomes Gray's love interest.

The movie feels so predictable, even though you know it's trying hard not to be—so of course, problems from Grady's past surface that she had no idea about (really?) in the form of Maureen (Juliette Lewis), a woman from his good time days when he was out in LA visiting Fritz (I can't type that name without feeling like it's just so ridiculous). And it's hard, because you can see the vibe that Grant is going for, sort of akin to the films of the utterly and always brilliant Allison Anders, where it's more subtle and sensitive than your typical studio picture. But Catch and Release never truly shows the heart of say a film like Things Behind the Sun or Grace of My Heart.

Essentially, the biggest problem with Catch and Release is that none of it really feels organic, and nothing feels more forced in this picture than the setting. And maybe it's a problem with the writing or maybe with the performances, although elements of both are truly lovely, so I can't quite put my finger on why it doesn't work. The film is wistful when it should have been hard hitting, obscure where it should have been obvious, and derivative when it should have gone in another direction.

(Explaining the worst made-for-TV moment would spoil the middle of the film so I won't go there but just trust me to say that you'd roll your eyes too).

The trouble with the movie, I think, that in order to see the impact of Grady's death on Gray's life, there had to be more than little reminders of the way it used to be. There's not enough there to understand why she's so lost, there's nothing of her previous person there to examine the impact of the tragic moments. In fact, there's little in terms of motivation for many of the main players, which leaves you wanting more, despite how well Grant tries to set up the situations.

I did, however, listen to the entire commentary track between Grant and Kevin Smith, which was, of course, hilarious and insightful. At one point, he talks about how much he hated the 'outdoorsy' aspects of the film, stating that he'd rather sit down and watch four films in a day than spent it fly fishing. At that moment, I felt like writing a fan letter to him that started, "even though we're both happily married, if you were ever looking for that girl to sit down and watch all those movies with..." Heh. Sigh.

Regardless, I read a few reviews that really criticized Smith's performance, but I didn't feel that way at all. I thought all the actors, including the normally over-"acting" Jennifer Garner, did a really good job with the material. I just felt like the script would have worked so much better as a novel, where Grant, as a writer, could have had more time to explore the absent back story, and could have filled in some of the missing pieces.

Anyway, I didn't get much of my own writing done this weekend for the watching of all these films and the writing of the subsequent reviews. And now this week is just so busy that I'm afraid another week will pass before I actually get to send anything to my mentor at Humber. I'm not so happy about that. I'm feeling the pressure actually.


indigo herself said...

i actually just watched this last night and i agree it was missing some of the whys with their relationship. i have a soft spot for jen garner and thought kevin smith was adorable even when i was expecting him to be horrible from all the marketing. the catch and release fly fishing metaphors felt really forced but oh well, i had pretty low expectations to be truthful. that said, i was completely in the mood for a chick flick and i felt like this hit the spot. i probably wouldn't watch the movie twice but did feel satisfied.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, as far as chick flicks go, you could do worse, but I agree that there wasn't enough back story. I wondered why Jennifer Garner had no friends and family of her own. Her fiance dies and she moves in with his buddies? Right.

Deanna McFadden said...

Exactly! Like she doesn't move in with her best girlfriend? She's just one of "those" girls who has the BF and that's it? And if they're THAT close she has NO idea he's getting up to something-something when in LA visiting Fritz?

I just felt that there's a lovely spirit to the movie that wasn't fully realized.

Oh, and that it felt like a lot of devices to get characters into certain positions vs. having them arrive there more naturally.

But what do I know -- I'm not a screenwriter.

Kerry said...

I wanted to see this movie when it came out because the previews featured the song "Ashes" by Embrace. The same thing happened with that movie with Don Cheadle and Adam Sandler. I saw neither film, however, because I thought a pop song that probably wasn't even featured in the actual movie was probably not the best reason to spend $12. It's not even that good a pop song, but whenever I hear it I become concerned that I am missing out on an essential experience of our time. Oh mass media and your poppy brainwashing, pulling on me heartstrings!

Your review makes me glad I gave it a miss.