By Gregg Tubbs
Catch and Release
Cast: Jennifer Garner, Timothy Olyphant, Sam Jaeger, Juliette Lewis, Kevin Smith
Rating: PG-13 for some language, sexuality and mild drug use.
Director: Susannah Grant
Some things are just better the second time around. In the quirky and big-hearted romantic comedy Catch and Release, Jennifer Garner plays a brokenhearted young woman who gets a second chance at love and the opportunity to steer her life in a completely new direction. With second chances also come second thoughts — the chance to examine the choices and priorities of the past, uncovering surprising secrets and deciding, not just how to do things differently, but how to do them better. To change her life, she'll have to learn to master life's unexpected twists and rely on the comfort of good friends.
The sudden death of her fiancée Grady has turned Gray Wheeler’s (Garner) wedding day into a painful and awkward wake. Surrounded by all the trappings of a wedding celebration, Gray bravely greets mourners instead of well-wishers, while internally despairing over her lost love and shattered dreams. Grant manages to keep things from getting too heavy by surrounding Gray with an endearing trio of friends who are determined to buoy her up.
This film depicts a circle of friends brought together by the death of the person who was the glue that held the group together. The friends — Sam (Kevin Smith), Dennis (Sam Jaeger) and Fritz (Timothy Olyphant) — all share Gray's sense of loss and disillusionment when unexpected, discouraging details about Grady's life surface. As the four split, clash and regroup, they console each other and try to find a new “glue” to hold them together. Their group dynamics are alternately comical and touching, but always revealing. Grady was not the only one with secrets; each of them is something more or different than the others expect.
Catch and Release touches on several themes. The idea of a person's image — one's self-image and the image we present to the world — is central. As the characters reveal truths about themselves, they become open to the possibility of being hurt or rejected, but ultimately, they are freed to be themselves.
We can learn much from watching these all-too-human characters try to recover from loss. First, we are reminded that none of us are perfect and we have all, as Paul put it, “have fallen short of the glory of God.” Once we've accepted that, we understand why Jesus warned, “Judge not, lest you be judged.” We also see the importance of being honest and the need to lower our defenses — with each other, with ourselves and with our maker. Honesty takes courage, but also has great rewards.
Grady never came clean with Gray, and her struggle to make peace with his memory and his secrets provides the film's dominant message. We see that love must always come with a generous dose of forgiveness. When Gray learns to forgive, she is able to move beyond the past and find a second chance for love with Fritz. Each character exercises forgiving love for the others — which is, after all, what enables each to have a second chance.