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Catch and Release

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I say there's just not enough tragedy in today's romantic comedies. You want to make me smile at the end of your movie? Make me cry a little first.

Susannah Grant seems to know exactly what I'm talking about. In her big screen directorial debut, the veteran screenwriter of Erin Brockovich and Ever After brings to the screen a story that feels like a novel of mixed emotions. The plot jumps in as Gray Wheeler (Jennifer Garner) hosts her fiance's funeral and narrates a letter to her deceased loved one as she uncomfortably fields condolences from family and friends.

An opening on a down note. I loved it. Then, as the plot unfolds, Wheeler learns unfortunate truths about her betrothed, and, to steal a page from so many prior reviews, she goes on a voyage of self-discovery.

The colorful cast includes actor/director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy, Dogma) and eternal big- and small-screen villain Timothy Olyphant (HBO's Deadwood). Smith proves that he can act outside of his own productions and is charming as a poor man's Jack Black­--a consoling, witty friend to Wheeler. Olyphant smoothly transitions from the dark characters he traditionally plays into a duplicitous love interest with a checkered past. Garner's not too bad, either.

There's a whole lot of heart in this film, and it feels a lot more real than so many of its contemporaries. If its run time were about 10 minutes shorter, it would qualify as a must-see.

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