Film Review – Confess, Fletch
Rumors about the character Irwin ‘Fletch’ Fletcher returning to the big screen have swirled since Chevy Chase took on the role back in the 1980s. For those unaware, Fletch is an investigative reporter whose journalistic skills are balanced by a wise-cracking, sarcastic attitude. While these traits may help Fletch crack a case, he can also touch a nerve with just about anyone he encounters. This is the type of guy that wears a Los Angeles Lakers hat while strolling around Boston just to ruffle feathers. He’s so self-absorbed that he’ll put his bare feet on a table around others because it makes him comfortable. Fletch is narcissistic, but that’s what makes him fun to watch.
In Confess, Fletch (2022), Jon Hamm takes the torch and inhabits Fletch like a glove. The part is tailor made for Hamm’s abilities, combining his on-screen charm with natural comedic timing. He knows exactly the kind of movie this is and plays the character as such. Directed by Greg Mottola (who cowrites with Zev Borrow), the narrative sees Fletch coming out of retirement and diving headfirst into a labyrinthine mystery. It’s really two or three mysteries simultaneously. Not only does Fletch’s Italian girlfriend Angela (Lorenza Izzo) ask him to find her stolen paintings, but he must also locate her kidnapped father. Just to make things more complicated, Fletch discovers a dead woman in his living room. The Boston police – namely Detective Monroe (Roy Wood Jr.) and Griz (Ayden Mayeri) suspect Fletch as the murderer.
Whew. That’s a lot of ground to cover, and the narrative barely manages to hold it all together. This is one of those scenarios where emphasis is put on characters we don’t see until the very end, or important events take place off screen. Fletch (and to a larger degree, Hamm himself) keeps us glued in with his charisma, but even he holds his cards close to his chest. We never quite know what he is thinking, his schemes, or if he has another trick up his sleeve. Fletch constantly talks out of the side of his mouth, identifying himself with aliases, saying one thing and then doing another, etc. Certain actions appear random – such as asking a couple of graffiti artists to paint his van – and aren’t paid off until way later. At one point Fletch, with a handful of other characters, confront each other at once. Some of these people we see for the first time. How they are all connected, why they are there, and how everything fits is convoluted. One would need a notepad and score card to keep up.
I suspect coherency is not vital here. Above all else, Confess, Fletch is an exercise in tone. Mottola directs with a light and breezy atmosphere, where the paintings and the corpse are of little consequence. This is really about the chemistry of the cast, and how supporting players either work with or butt heads with Fletch. It’s a question of how much Fletch can get away with until he gets into serious trouble. The writing (along with Andy Keir’s editing) construct scenes with rhythm and pacing, allowing interactions to have energy and movement. Notice the way Fletch toys with the detectives, acting as though he is cooperating when in fact is pulling the rug from beneath them. Roy Wood Jr. is especially good in expressing his annoyance with having to deal with Fletch.
The narrative is structured as a series of episodes in which Fletch interacts with increasingly colorful characters. Some stand out, such as Kyle MacLachlan’s eccentric art curator, whose hobbies include jumping around his apartment blasting EDM. John Slattery – Hamm’s fellow Mad Men alum – shows up as a newspaper editor and Fletch’s former boss. Seeing the two back together is like seeing friends reminisce about the old days. Marcia Gay Harden steals the show as the scene-chewing Countess. With her thick accent, dramatic mannerisms, and larger than life personality, the Countess’ broad portrayal is a delight. The further Harden takes the character, the funnier she becomes.
Not all the comedic bits work effectively. The narrative takes a hard tangent when Fletch meets his nosy and aloof neighbor, Eve (Annie Mumolo). The conversation the two have in Eve’s kitchen is straight out of a cartoon. Eve is so clumsy we begin to wonder how she can survive on her own. Mumolo does her best to bring life to the character, but Eve is such an outlier (in a movie already filled with absurdity) that she doesn’t encompass any form of believability. How dense does one need to be to start a fire in their kitchen and not notice it? Do they need to be engulfed in flames to realize they’re in trouble? I don’t mind screwball characters if they fit within the context of the story. Eve does not – she takes way too much time away from Fletch’s other concerns.
With that said, there’s a throwback quality to Confess, Fletch that I enjoyed. In a time when reboots and remakes always aim to be bigger and louder, here is a cast-driven vehicle that embraces its frothy style. Jon Hamm’s Fletch is a mischievous protagonist, and I wouldn’t mind seeing what other capers he gets himself into next.