If you and
your sweetie can remain civil to each
other while braving a trip to the modern
multiplex together, I salute you this
Valentine season. You’ve got a
relationship of above-average strength.
But if you’re looking for a good
cinematic Valentine—a chick flick, in
other words—from among the grim crop
currently on our nation’s screens, your
choices are limited: Stephen Collins
romances Diane Keaton in Because I Said
So, opening Feb. 2; Eddie Murphy
romances Eddie Murphy (in a dual role)
in the lowbrow comedy Norbit, opening
Feb. 9; Hugh Grant romances Drew
Barrymore in Music and Lyrics; and Idris
Elba romances Gabrielle Union in Daddy’s
Little Girls, the latter two opening on
But none of these have been screened at
this writing. The only love story in
wide release right now is Catch &
Release, a rather melancholy
comedy-drama about starting life over
The movie begins with grief. A lovely
young woman named Gray (Jennifer Garner)
has just lost her fly-fishing fiancé,
Grady, in an accident on a
bachelor-party trip with his buddies
(the possibility that the forces of
nature were simply rejecting the union
of a couple with those two first names
is never discussed).
Needing a place to stay, the stricken
Gray moves in with Grady’s two roomies
and best pals (Kevin Smith and Sam
Jaeger), and almost immediately begins
to learn that there was much about her
beloved that she never knew.
He was much richer than she realized,
for instance, and he was regularly
sending some of that money to Maureen, a
ditzy Californian massage therapist (Juliette
Lewis). Maureen’s son (Joshua Friesen),
who’s a ringer for Grady, is only four
years old, even though Grady and Gray
had been together for six years.
Gray also gets to know Grady’s old
friend Fritz (Timothy Olyphant of HBO’s
Deadwood), a director of TV commercials
and a fairly major hottie—early on, a
woman in the film refers to him as “Mr.
Yummy,” and my wife assures me that he
lives up to the moniker.
Before long, Fritz and Gray begin a
furtive affair, but are they in love or
just clinging to each other for solace
in the face of a stunning loss?
This and other dramatic questions are
sorted out against the backdrop of
Boulder, Colo., and some gloriously
beautiful mountain streams where Gray
and her friends go to recreate.
Despite the high-concept drama of
situation, the script and direction,
both by Susannah Grant, keep things
rather tame and easygoing. With the
attractive actors bantering in front of
the attractive scenery, there are times
when we might almost be watching an
episode of Desperate Housewives.
This isn’t so bad, either—after all the
agonies of the past cinematic year, the
unhurried pace of this film, and its
lack of breast-beating histrionics,
prove rather relaxing.
Garner is charming, as usual, and makes
Gray a likable heroine without any
actressy milking of her grief. Olyphant
plays it even closer to the vest,
sidling through the movie behind a wary
The real fun in Catch & Release comes
less from this handsome, circumspect
pair than from the scruffy supporting
players—Smith as the indolent layabout
pal, Jaeger as Grady’s business partner
who carries a torch for Gray, Lewis as
the well-meaning masseuse, Fiona Shaw as
Grady’s seething mother.
Catch & Release is far too safe and
undemanding to be a work of any real
depth, but Grant and her actors cast a
gentle spell by which I, at least, was
After it was over, I didn’t think it was
all that much of a movie, but while it
was playing, I was lost in it.