Catch and Release

Year: 2006
Studio: Columbia
Director: Susannah Grant
Writer: Susannah Grant
Cast: Jennifer Garner, Timothy Olyphant, Kevin Smith, Sam Jaeger, Juliette Lewis

Susannah Grant is a little bit too edgy to make a studio romantic comedy, so instead this movie is an edgy romantic comedy (complete with pretty folk music). But despite a far more realistic tone than most of the crap reserved for people like Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler, at its heart it's still just a romantic comedy, complete with all the trappings from mismatched couple to oddball friend.

Jennifer Garner is the (awfully named) Grey, a young woman who we meet at the funeral of the man she was due to marry in just days. She can't raise her head above the haze of disbelief despite the caring and attention of her family and friends, even kooky roommates Sam (Smith) and Dennis (Jaeger).

But it's her fiance's handsome LA friend Fritz (Olyphant), who she's never liked, who stands out. After banging one of the catering waitresses in the bathroom she's hiding in to get away from the funeral crowds her esteem of him goes down even more, and when he starts staying in the house Grey and her husband-to-be were preparing to live in, she's even more surprised.

But secrets about her dead boyfriend's life start to emerge, including a vast sum of money and regular payments to a woman who keeps calling on a private line Grey never realised he had.

It turns out the woman – hippy Maureen (Lewis) – has a son apparently by Grey's fiance, and despite her horror and with her friends' encouragement and a dose of chance, they all start to accept Maureen into their lives. All the while, Dennis is holding a torch for her and she finds herself being drawn to Fritz in a gilded Hollywood way she never expected.

Grant's script and direction are authentic and heartfelt, but I had a hard time sticking with it because of the casting. There are a few problems with the plot that are easy to paste over (why Grey accepts Fritz in her life and her house so easily when she supposedly can't stand him, for one thing).

But Garner is way too perky and twee to be the kind of dark and damaged the character of Grey calls for. And Olyphant always looks somewhere between being on the verge of a sarcastic comment or mean joke or taking out a knife and stabbing you to death with it.

It's fairly cute and sweet, but not enough to stand out from a very crowded genre.

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