• Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Review: Confess, Fletch

ByFrances Hadley

Dec 30, 2022
Image of Jon Hamm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The experience of watching Confess, Fletch felt like catching up with an old friend or rewatching an old favourite. It’s the kind of amiable mid-budget comedy that used to be fairly common but has become increasingly rare in a climate dominated by mega-franchises. Films that aren’t part of that model and want to be successful tend to be low-budget indies, and the market has become somewhat saturated. Into this climate enters Confess, Fletch. It’s a refreshing dose of entertainment in these doom-laden times.

Technically, Confess, Fletch is part of a franchise, though it bears little blood relation with the first two instalments, which were by all accounts considerably less faithful to the spirit of the source material than the new one. After a long hiatus, Chevy Chase has been replaced with Jon Hamm in the title role, and it’s hard to think of a more perfect casting choice. Hamm brings a suave confidence and facility for verbal sparring to the role, which is a joy to watch. Not since Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski (with which this shares some DNA) has anyone looked so cool while being so out of their depth. He’s smarmy and a little arrogant – there’s an amusing repeated line where he says he was once an ‘investigative reporter of some repute’ – the kind of guy nobody likes in real life, but you can’t not root for on screen.

The plot, such as it is, concerns art theft, kidnapping, and murder. You see, Fletch’s new Italian girlfriend’s father (who is a rich Count) has had his art collection stolen and also been kidnapped. He’s married to a suspicious Countess who may or may not have had something to do with it and who purrs Fletch’s name, making it sound like ‘Flesh’. But Fletch’s rented apartment in Boston, where he is investigating a germophobic art dealer, unexpectedly comes with a dead body in the living room and the police think he’s the culprit. Now he has to clear his name by assuming aliases to get in with his own list of suspects, infiltrating a very wealthy (and very white) boating club patronised by the art dealer who may or may not have a connection with Fletch’s girlfriend, who also seems to know the owner of the apartment with the corpse. Then there’s the cocky neighbour whose dog urinates on the floor and ignores the smoke alarm and the two cops who don’t care much for Fletch’s quips or his efforts to stop them from tailing him. I hope you’re keeping up.

Part of the joy is that as complex as the plot is, it doesn’t really matter all that much. Confess, Fletch belongs to a lineage of great crime mysteries, including The Thin Man, The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye, and the aforementioned Big Lebowski, where the convoluted plot is an aesthetic choice, essentially existing to get its main character interacting with fun and interesting characters. The funniest of these comes about halfway through when he impersonates a lifestyle writer to interview the apartment owner’s privileged ex, who shows off her pretentious furniture and tells him a rather unique definition of ‘bespoke’.

The director, Greg Mottola, has done fine work bringing this to the screen. His best-known film is Superbad, which is perhaps catering to a different audience, but in both, he displays a talent for knowing how much space to give his performers to enhance the comedy and the character work. As a writer, he has done a fine job updating the material to a contemporary setting, even working in some humorous digs at the police and the ultra-wealthy. Fletch moves among these privileged circles, but he’s not taken in by them. He’s sympathetic to those who deserve it and unafraid to skewer those blind to their privilege. It’s a joy to watch.

Image Credit: “Mad Men’s Jon Hamm” by Luck the Lady is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.