Greg Mottola’s “Confess, Fletch” is an absolute delight. Smartly written and consistently funny, this is one of most entertaining films of 2022.
Although inevitable, Mottola’s picture shouldn’t be compared with Michael Ritchie’s 1985 “Fletch” starring Chevy Chase, as the two films are cut from a different cloth.
Ritchie’s was very much a product of the eighties. Once Chevy Chase was cast, the screenplay was modified to fit his style. I enjoyed that picture immensely and consider it one of the funniest films of its decade.
For “Confess, Fletch”, director Mottola and his co-screenwriter Zev Borrow adapted Gregory McDonald’s 1976 novel in a more straightforward fashion. Their screenplay keeps the staccato sentences and witty dialogue, allowing for a more organic feel to the interactions between the story’s characters.
As the film begins, freelance journalist Irwin Maurice Fletcher (call him I.M. Fletcher) arrives in Boston after a month in Italy, only to find the body of a young woman in the apartment he is to stay in.
In a nice bit of comedic frustration Fletch calls the police precinct’s main number to report the murder, only to find himself speaking to an annoyed desk sergeant who says he needs to call 911 for emergencies. Fletch argues the emergency is over, as the murder has already taken place, and the woman is now dead.
This quick but important exchange is an excellent example of how the screenwriters easily capture the wit that was so evident in McDonald’s novels.
As the investigation begins, the murder weapon is found to be a bottle that just happens to have Fletch’s fingerprints all over it.
The lead investigator, Inspector Monroe, is played marvelously well by comedian Roy Wood Jr.
Monroe dislikes Fletch’s confidence and easygoing demeanor. He feels his suspect should be feeling nervous, as all evidence points directly to him, but Fletch shows grace under pressure. The inspector feels this is all a facade that hides a guilty man.
Wood Jr. matches Hamm beat for beat and, while Fletch throws out quick-witted observations, the inspector lobs back insults.
Monroe is not presented as a standard cop who dogs his suspect, Monroe has a story. He is a new dad who gets no sleep and is constantly tired, cranky, and maybe a little short with his partner, played very well by Ayden Mayeri.
As Fletch continues to elude the cops (his constant waving to them as he dodges their surveillance is always funny) and the mystery continues, the picture presents a host of memorable characters.
Lorenza Izzo is Angela, Fletch’s Italian Fiancée who genuinely cares for him. They have good sex, good conversation, and she sweetly laughs at his fumbling of the Italian language he claims to be “very good” with. Izzo plays her role with sexual fire and an intoxicating kindness, easily winning over the audience.
Angela’s father, Count Clementi De Grassi, has vanished and may be kidnapped. The family’s art collection has been stolen and Fletch has been trying to track it down.
The trail leads him to Boston, as a Picasso has resurfaced through local broker and comically germophobic Ronald Horan (Kyle MacLachlin, always entertaining). This could lead Fletch to the actual location of the paintings and, perhaps, the missing Count.
Enter a wonderful and very funny Marcia Gay Harden as the Countess de Grassi, who comes to Boston and inserts herself into the apartment and the mystery. There is also a chance that she just might want to sleep with her soon to be son-in-law.
The Countess is brash and feels she deserves constant respect, but the actress doesn’t make her a caricature. While certainly quirky, Harden gives her real personality and the scenes of not-so-subtle attempts at seduction made me smile. Marcia Gay Harden has a natural gift for comedy that she should use more often.
Angela distrusts her stepmother, both claiming their respective rights to the art collection. The two actresses are bewitching on their own but once together Izzo and Harden share some of the film’s best moments, elevating a picture that is already quite alive.
John Hamm works extremely well as Irwin Fletcher. Where Chase’s Fletch became Chevy Chase, Hamm plays the character more naturally, adjusting his techniques to Gregory McDonald’s creation.
The actor glides effortlessly through the film. Fletch’s humor comes naturally and is sometimes a defense mechanism when things go south, but he is never mean. Hamm’s fluent and skillful grasp of the character solidifies him as the perfect choice for the role. It is great work and I hope to see him in more Fletch mysteries.
Annie Mumolo, Eugene Mirman, and Hamm’s old “Mad Men” pal John Slattery complete this well-chosen cast; each one having their moments to shine. Every actor in this film, be the role big or small, is perfectly cast.
David Arnold crafts a playful, old-school score. His bouncy Lalo Schifrin-styled rhythms and brass filled compositions would feel right at home in a seventies mystery-thriller, a style director Mottola succeeds in capturing.
As Fletch’s brain and mouth are always active, Mottola’s film is constantly on the move.
The director uses Boston well as Fletch weaves around the city trying to solve the mystery and clear his name.
Mottola doesn’t need to be fancy for this story. Working with cinematographer Sam Levy, the two capture Boston well without having to highlight every major landmark. Boston has its own unique pulse, and the film finds a symmetry within it.
Mottola’s film would make a perfect double feature with a film such as Jeremy Paul Kagan’s 1978 treasure “The Big Fix.”
Richard Dreyfuss’s wise-cracking P.I. Moses Wine (who pushed back against authority while solving a mystery and alienating everyone) is certainly of the same ilk as I.M. Fletcher.
“Confess, Fletch” is a very good pulp-mystery picture. Fast and funny, the clever screenplay is always interesting and matches Jon Hamm’s quick-witted performance.
This is old-school entertainment done right.