While at Austin, I caught a screening of Susannah Grant’s new movie CATCH AND RELEASE. Since I sorta-know and definitely admire half the people in it (Jennifer Garner, Tim Olyphant, Kevin Smith), not to mention producer Jenno Topping, I’m hardly an unbiased viewer. So I’ll leave the reviews to more neutral eyes.
But what I do feel justified discussing is the movie’s setting: Boulder, Colorado. My home town.
My very first script was set in Boulder, so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how it would look on film. Watching CATCH AND RELEASE, I saw many of my chosen locations (The Hill, the Pearl Street Mall, various Flatirons) yet felt almost no recognition that this was actually Boulder.
It’s not the film’s fault. It’s just that movies look nothing like reality.
For instance, a scene set at the Pearl Street Mall is shot in mostly mediums and close-ups. Without a big wide establishing shot, you don’t get a sense of a street that’s been converted to a pedestrian mall. Of course, the movie doesn’t need the wide shot. The scene would probably be worse for its inclusion. It’s only Boulderites who miss the sense of geography.
If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not. The movie is a postcard and valentine for Boulder, and its brand of earnest happiness and liberal optimism. Characters attend the opening of a “peace garden” without a trace of snarkiness to be found — and this in a movie featuring Kevin Smith.
Yes, much of the movie was shot on soundstages and locations far from Boulder. But it wasn’t the geographic differences that hurt the verisimilitude; it was the movie magic. In real life, the sun doesn’t dapple, clutter isn’t charming, and a wall painted “Tampax blue” wouldn’t merit discussion.
I have first-hand experience with the disorienting effects of movie magic, since a portion of The Movie I just directed was shot at my own house. For the last four months, I’ve been staring at footage of my kitchen, yet I barely connect it as being the same place I eat breakfast every morning.
Light, film and lenses change the colors and geometry of the room. The camera watches from places a human wouldn’t, constant and undistracted.
After a friends-and-family of The Movie, I got word back from a friend who lamented that her own house seemed less grown-up after seeing mine on film. She’s overlooking the fact we packed up all the baby toys, the dog beds, the stacks of unread mail, and the dishes in the sink. My house looks grown-up the same way houses in magazine shoots look: perfect, because no one has to live there.
In every scene, in every shot, there are lights and flags and twenty crew members just off the edge of frame, all working really hard to make it look nothing like reality.