After establishing herself as an A-list screenwriter (penning Erin Brockovich), Susannah Grant made her directorial debut with moody rom-com Catch And Release. Unfortunately this unusual blend of comedy, tragedy and romance was "distinctly wishy-washy". It opened to lukewarm reviews and, in the lead role of 30-something widow Gray, Jennifer Garner just wasn't a big box office draw.
Slow On The Uptake
Although it's by no means an awful film, the sudden shifts in tone make it an uncomfortable watch. Grant acknowledges those "swings of emotion" in From Concept To Completion, while Garner admits, "Getting the balance of comedy and tragedy is definitely the hardest thing for me." Of course everyone on set is blissfully convinced that it's all coming off perfectly... The casting of loudmouth director Kevin Smith was part of Grant's plan to diffuse some of the tension that arose from difficult scenes of grief and depression, but as the man himself explains, his involvement wasn't a foregone conclusion. In fact he expresses disbelief (with a cheeky wink) at having to audition for the part of Sam.
We're not suggesting Smith was nervous, but he downs almost an entire bottle of water in his audition. That video is included in the bonus package, along with tapes of Juliette Lewis (acting scatty - what a stretch!) and Sam Jaeger (in the role of nice guy Dennis). You can also see Smith and Jaeger in action together in a deleted scene debating the protocol of the grieving process. That's only slightly more entertaining than a second deleted scene, where Garner and love interest Timothy Olyphant each sit on a park bench looking really depressed.
Smith brings some light relief to one of two director's commentaries. He puts Grant in the hot seat, firing off all kinds of questions about her career before getting her to divulge intimate details about her love life and then pouring scorn on her "WASPy" upbringing. Grant insists she was a rebel, telling the story of how she fled to San Francisco in her 20s and got a tattoo of "the family crest"! Of course this has little to do with what we're watching on screen, but with so few laughs in the film, there's no point complaining.
Grant discusses the nitty-gritty of actually making the film in another commentary with cinematographer John Lindley. Apart from obvious notes on lighting and design, she talks more about her approach to the heavier drama, always aiming at "the moment just off the obvious", eg, showing the action just after the funeral, instead of the ceremony itself. Of course, that could also explain why the film comes across as bland and uneventful... Even on the small screen (where a soapy yarn feels more at home), Catch And Release is a missed opportunity.
Catch And Release DVD is released on Monday 23rd July 2007.