Jennifer Garner's lips grow more Angelina-esque every year. In the romantic comedy Catch and Release, Garner (Alias, 13 Going On 30) plays Gray Wheeler, a young woman whose fiance dies unexpectedly before the wedding, leaving Gray unable to afford her home--so she moves in with her fiance's best friends, Sam (Kevin Smith, director of Clerks and Dogma) and Dennis (Sam Jaeger, Lucky Number Slevin). But the presence of another old friend named Fritz (Timothy Olyphant, Deadwood) leads to the unveiling of a secret: Gray's fiance had a child with another woman.
Catch and Release lacks the clear story structure that most romantic comedies are built on, but trades it for a richer sense of the ambiguities of human relationships. Garner, though lovely and personable, is a bit bland--fortunately, she's surrounded by actors with all kinds of edges, including Smith (who shows an unexpected and uncloying earnest side), Fiona Shaw (from the Harry Potter movies) as the fiance's grieving mother, and Juliette Lewis (Cape Fear), who demonstrates once again her powers as a fearless and surprising actress. Catch and Release is an uneven movie, with a remarkably elegant visual style that sometimes clashes with the workman-like dialogue, but it can't be written off as the same old Hollywood claptrap. Though a happy ending is inevitable, the path it takes has some surprising turns and flashes of unexpected emotional depth. --Bret Fetzer