So many snarky ways to talk about the disastrous Catch and Release! It is a flawless jewel of wrong - not a single correct choice made anywhere in its overladen 111 minutes. Its ineptitude is unblemished and cannot be measured. It is bottomless, like the Bay of Portugal.

In the beginning, there is voice-over. And not just any old voice-over - it is the voice of a bereaved woman telling her late fiancé how much easier it would be to face his funeral if her were there with her. As if there would even be a funeral if he were alive! trusty research gnomes have informed me that this voice-over is deliberately self-contradictory. Apparently, the point is that it's supposed to be tragically ironic and amusing. It seems that Catch and Release is a comedy, although writer-director Susannah Grant seems anxious to hide that fact, by sucking the life out of every gag that creeps like a snail unwillingly across the screen.

So a quick recap: this is a film that begins with an ironic voice-over directed towards the heroine's dead lover. I could probably stop writing now and mark it a "1/10," but there's much to be said still, so let us push on!

Herein, we have Jennifer Garner, that grand comedienne, playing a woman who does not realise how staid and predictable and insincere her life had been going, and to make sure we "get" this, she is given the subtly metaphorical name of Gray. And it's not enough that was laid on with a trowel; Grant gets a twofer out of this by including a fantastic bit of dialogue:

GRAY: "What's your favorite color?"

FRITZ: "Gray."

REVIEWER: "Fuck you, right up your fucking NOSE."

The Fritz in that passage is the toolbox best friend of the recently deceased, who while lacking any hint of charisma is set up rather obviously as the romantic lead who will sweep Our Heroine off her feet despite her hatred for his douchebaggery, and bring some joy and color to her gray life. See, I can do it too. He is played by Timothy Olyphant, and would you like to guess what his immediate prior role was to this film? Did you guess Seth Bullock in Deadwood? A series in which he was given lines like, "You’ve looked at your last body. You’re done tipping your fucking hat. Get out of here or I’ll drag you out by the ear"? Congratulations. You guessed correctly.

I would the gods had made Susannah Grant poetical, at least as much as her Erin Brockovich screenplay had promised.

The closest the film comes to a "right" decision is the fly-on-the-wall perspective of a group of people sifting through loss that makes up the bulk of the first act: Gray must leave her too-pricey house to live with her sort-of friends Sam (Kevin Smith, destroying the last tattered vestiges of anything like admiration you might still have had for him) and Dennis (Sam Jaeger). They are the dramatic relief, by which I mean that their antics are so dismally far from funny, and filmed in such an antiseptic, Cassavetes-inflicted tone, that I believe they have been included solely to ensure that the audience does not inadvertently laugh during the film, and break its gloomy spell. Rereading that paragraph, I see that it started out as a back-handed compliment, and it went very wrong. I'll leave it; I must have liberty, as large a charter as the wind, to blow on whom I please. What I was going for was, there's a certain niceness to how untypical the film is for focusing on the jejune and the quotidian, which is totally undone by the falseness of the characters and their interactions.

The plot keeps cranking its way on, past a ridiculous subplot wherein Smith is the guy who rounds up quotes for Celestial Seasonings to use on their boxes, and so the Celestial Seasonings Tea Company is eventually made out to be more of a character than Dennis, who only gets to pine fruitlessly after Gray. Eventually, Juliette Lewis shows up as a New Age massage therapist with the dead man's son, and Catch and Release completes its descent into a Cloud Cuckooland of the most lukewarm niceties about people who need people being the luckiest people in the world. The very false gallop of verses trudges on through a false ending with the return of Gray's voice-over, in which we find that she learned that something something something. Apparently, the only way to fully know your lover is for the woman he was cheating with to visit you in Boulder. Or summat. Anyway, it's just the palate-cleanser for a truly nauseating ending in which Gray goes all wilting-femme and must chase heteronormativity to the mouth of Hell and back, by which I mean Los Angeles.

I couldn't possibly have loved a movie more than I loved Catch and Release. It is a perfect storm. Whatever the romantic comedy has ever achieved, that is not present in this mirthless unromantic sludge through a bereaved woman's rise out of depression into the arms of contrivance. The bad movie fan in me swoons even now at the memory of the unending parade of clichés and inanities: every one fault seemed monstrous till his fellow-fault came to match it. There's something so right about this much unfettered wrong.


(I'm saving the much-coveted "1" for Because I Said So, which I expect to hit this week. Well, of course I'm seeing it! What did you think "Act One" meant in the post title?)