Gray's fiancé Grady dies in a skiing accident, transforming their wedding day into a funeral. Afterwards, Gray moves in with Grady's former roommates Sam (who's quick with his quips) and Dennis (a more introverted nice guy). But she's chagrined to find that they've also offered a bed to a self-centered womanizing friend of Grady's (Fritz) who traveled from California for the funeral.
As executor of Grady's estate, Gray finds a large bank account, of over a million dollars, that she knew nothing about. She also discovers that Grady was sending money to a woman and her 3-year-old son in California every month. Maureen happens to be a flirty, "erotic" massage therapist. Her son, Mattie, looks "just like Grady."
Gray's head is spinning as she tries to get her mind wrapped around all the secrets that her fiancé was keeping from her. Did she ever really know the man at all? To top things off, Maureen and Mattie suddenly show up! And Gray finds herself falling for, of all people, Fritz.
Grady was sending Maureen regular checks to help support her and Mattie. Fritz finds out about this after the funeral and arranges for a $20,000 check to be sent to them to help them with their needs. He also spots Gray, inebriated in a bar, and takes her home. Sam steps in as a father figure for Mattie and teaches him to fish.
Dennis, who has had a secret crush on Gray for six years, goes out of his way to make her comfortable after her fiancé's death. (He's always a perfect gentleman about it, too.) He also puts a lot of work into creating a peace garden to dedicate to Grady. In that same vein, Sam and Dennis, who have been friends for a long time, both take steps to help each other through difficult times.
At first, Gray is upset about Maureen and her son, but in the end her attitude changes and she arranges financial help for them at some sacrifice to herself.
Maureen, who is into natural foods and speaks of Chinese qi and spiritual cleansing, leads the group in a short Chinese prayer before dinner. Sam is exhilarated when he hooks a fish and exclaims, "This is what God feels like when He catches a fish!" He also jokes about a girl named Persephone being like that "goddess of the underworld."
During the funeral, Gray needs a place to regroup emotionally and can only find it by sitting in an empty bathtub. It is from that vantage point that she overhears Fritz and one of the female caterers having noisy sex on the nearby counter. (We see snippets of them; they're fully clothed, but we get an eyeful of sexual movements.)
Later, Gray and Fritz have a confrontation. She slaps him. He pins her up against the wall. And the two kiss passionately. In another scene they're shown (in an overlapping visual montage) unbuttoning and caressing each other, and working their way toward intercourse. The lovers are also seen naked in bed with the covers drawn up.
Gray wears a low-cut top. Maureen, who always dresses in skintight, cleavage-baring outfits, offers Sam a massage. She climbs and kneads her way around on him, speaking of the "chakra" energy, and culminates the rubdown by sliding her hand out of the frame to his crotch. (Startled, he stops her.)
When Grady's mother is told about the possibility of having an illicit grandson, she blames Gray for not taking care of her son's sexual needs ("No satisfied man goes screwing cocktail waitresses"). During a group dinner, Gray let's forth with secrets that she has kept hidden from Grady. One is that she's "made it with a girl once."
Other references are made about lesbian sex, pornography, affairs and oral sex. Gray wishes she'd been nicer to Grady before he died, and vocalizes the thought that she should've OK'd bachelor party strippers.
Sam and Dennis have a rolling wrestling match and struggle/smash their way from the front porch into the living room. Under the influence of drugs and alcohol, Sam falls and hits his head. A guy talks to Gray about a friend of his getting into a skiing accident and having his jugular severed by a snowboard. After Sam and Mattie catch a fish, the boy jumps up and down on it.
Crude or Profane Language
God's name is misused over 20 times. Once or twice it's combined with "d--n." Jesus' name is abused at least four times. The s-word pop up four or five times. A dozen other profanities, including "h---," "a--" and "b--ch," get tossed in.
The euphemism "eff you!" is said several times. Upon hearing Maureen use that euphemism, Gray derisively declares that there's no call for a grown women to tone down her language that way.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Gray takes tranquilizers and is so out of it that when she's accidentally dropped to the floor she doesn't wake up. Sam, distraught over Grady's death (and blaming himself for not stopping the deadly trip), drowns his emotions by drinking beer and vodka copiously. He eventually attempts suicide by mixing alcohol with what's left of Gray's pills.
At the funeral the guests drink champagne, wine and beer. (The catering was carried over from the planned wedding.) Grady's mom asks for scotch. All of the friends drink wine or beer at most social settings. Gray gets drunk at a bar by herself. Dennis gets drunk and throws a wine bottle, smashing it on the kitchen floor.
A soundtrack song references cigarettes and sleeping pills. Fritz mentions how all the people in Boulder, Co., seem so happy and suggests that they're all on Prozac. Fritz takes a joint out of his pocket, but never lights it.
Other Negative Elements
Maureen is depicted as a free-spirited woman who does not believe in disciplining her son. As a result the boy does as he pleases, throwing things, taking things out of her bag, etc. And even though Maureen won't swear in front of her son, she's comfortable making sexual advances on Sam while Mattie watches cartoons nearby. Fritz initially lies about Grady's affair with Maureen. Gray mentions that she secretly steals library books and wishes for larger body counts after natural disasters.
Not all that long ago, directors such as Frank Capra and John Ford created films that reflected the mores of their generation. Their movies were about people who faced the harshness of life and made it through by the strength of their character, a trust in the guy next door or a faith in something (someone) bigger than themselves. Things were either right or wrong and easy to understand. But we've been told so many times now that nobody really lived (or lives) like that that I think we've begun to believe it.
Catch and Release, then, is a reflection of how one modern Hollywood director sees life—and how she sees the lives of those around her. Susannah Grant (who wrote the screenplays for Charlotte's Web, Erin Brockovich and Ever After, among other things) has brought to life a group of likable friends trying to cope and regroup after a loved one unexpectedly dies. But the problem is that they exist in a morally vapid and relationally skewed world. It's a place where a handsome outdoorsy guy can be engaged to a "perfect" girl while making frequent trips out of town to have sex with a massage therapist/bimbo—and his friends just kind of shrug it off. After all, he was sending her money.
It's as if they're saying, Hey, everybody needs to be able to unwind. Sure, all that stuff that Grady was doing was deceptive and hurtful. (Truly, we are sorry Gray had to find out about this.) But should anybody really be saying anything about who's sleeping, or who's slept with whom? Just grab a beer and relax!
And even when the perfect girl steps down off her pedestal—just a few days after the handsome guy's funeral—and jumps in bed with a lout everybody knows is a skirt-chaser, no one's all that surprised. He is good looking, after all. And besides, he's changed ... right? As for that little kid who's being turned into a hellion, who wants to throw stones?Especially the first one.
That narrow, narcissistic point of view is what tends to muddy up Ms. Grant's inconspicuous little movie that tries to be about love and loss and love again. She does a great job of making moviegoers want to approve of Gray's new love and resulting zest for life. And on The O.C. it would make perfect sense to happily and gratefully bounce from a cheating guy to a promiscuous one. But in real life, all Gray would be asking for is more pain.
So in spite of its talented, pretty cast and its quick one-liners, Catch and Release is hardly worth reeling in. Instead you might want to consider hooking something by Capra or Ford. You may be surprised that their characters are more like the people you know and make choices you can better understand.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Jennifer Garner as Gray; Timothy Olyphant as Fritz; Kevin Smith as Sam; Juliette Lewis as Maureen
Susannah Grant ( )