Catch and Release
I was thinking, there's a pretty good history of funny death movies. Big Fish, Moonlight Mile, Tommy Boy. I used to think that the very visual of a funeral in a comedy killed the whole mood, but several great filmmakers have changed my tune on that one. Certainly if anyone could make death a delight, it's Jennifer Garner.
Movie Review: Catch and Release
Gray (Garner) has just lost her fiance in a bachelor party accident, and already the funeral is charming with friendly Sam (Kevin Smith) gorging and a pervy uncle getting a bit too affectionate. As she and her friends sort out the estate, Gray discovers secrets and falls for Fritz (Timothy Olyphant), the slimy womanizer friend of the fiancé.
Throwing so many comedic setups at a tragic situation may seem tacky, like it's begging for comedy, but the characters really seem natural. There are humorously mundane nuisances of dealing with things, and hurtful revelations, and comforting presences.
They're still movie characters, way more clever and articulate than real people, but we like that in movies. The conflicts are well constructed and people get to the point. It gives us drama we can watch unfold.
They never explain too much. They give us credit for making connections between people we see and stories we've heard. They never have to say, "This is the person that did this because that happened and now we need to do this to take care of them."
There's still the hate, love, hate, love, hate, love structure of Gray and Fritz's relationship, and it's utterly ridiculous when they first kiss. But hey, that's how they do these things. The first kiss, and the cliché "overhearing something that hurts your feelings" scene are the only real movie offenses. Otherwise, every romantic development is on a small scale, not like stopping a wedding or going to the Empire State Building.
There's some slapstick, dropping a sofa bed, blading down a hill, kitchen mishaps. Some of it is contrived, like making the massage therapist such an outrageous caricature. But it works because Smith reacts to it like a pro.
Sam really is based on Smith. It's how Kevin talks, calling everyone sir, even with a Star Wars reference. He enunciates more, making the personality bigger, so it's not totally the understated mumble of his public speeches, but it's Kevin.
Garner finally found a role that wasn't the same tough girl or a broad caricature in the opposite direction. Her sad scenes feel earned, not like, "I want to cry now" and when she does find humor in the midst of tragedy, that is real strength.
It's unfortunate that Catch and Release now has the stigma of a delayed dump movie. It's better than most of the crap that got an Oscar push last year. When it starts playing on HBO four times a week, be sure to check it out.