Confess, Fletch

Posted on September 15, 2022 at 5:23 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language, some sexual content and drug use
Profanity: Strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol and drugs
Violence/ Scariness: Violence, murder, scufffles
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: September 9, 2022

Copyright Miramar 2022
“Confess, Fletch” is a reboot of the affectionately remembered Chevy Chase films based on the series of books by Gregory MacDonald. The post for the new film, with Jon Hamm as the title character, is charmingly retro, evoking the style and font of the 70s. The film, from writer/director Greg Motolla, is not as effective as updating the character and settings. Motolla, the gifted director of films including “Superbad,” “The Daytrippers,” “Adventureland,” and “Paul,” has an exceptional gift for combining action, comedy, and heart, often episodic with a collection of engaging characters and always with a terrific score. But the character of I.M. Fletcher, smart-mouthed, twice-divorced investigative reporter, is never effectively updated in this intermittently enjoyable film, and the episodic screenplay drags, especially when it assumes the characters are more appealing than they are.

Hamm, who co-produced, is well cast, with great comic timing and all the charm his character needs to get away with behavior which ranges from smart-aleck to obnoxious. There are a couple of tough balancing acts in bringing this movie together, and both work only intermittently.

The first is balancing the expectations of the fans of the original films with the very different environment of the present day. The earlier films are very much of their era and not familiar or translatable to the world of 2022. Fans of the original will want to see their favorite parts on screen. People new to the character will need learn who he is and find him appealing. The poster leans toward the former, with a 70s-retro drawing that looks like a book cover.

And then there is the balance between the comedy, mostly based on Fletch’s smart-aleck quips and romantic escapades, and the mystery, which has to do with some stolen paintings worth many millions of dollars that happen to have been the property of the father of the woman Fletch was seeing and thinking of proposing to.

I’m not sure if it says something about our time or if it just says something about the lack of ideas, but we’ve seen a number of “whoops, my rental is double-booked” storyline in movies lately (see “Alone Together” and “Barbarian” for example). Fletch returns to the US after his time in Italy, planning to work on a book. His beautiful girlfriend has arranged the rental. Small problem: someone else is already there. Big problem: she’s dead. And so in true movie fashion, Fletch has to get out of trouble by solving the mystery himself.

There’s a shaggy dog quality to the storyline, as Fletch drifts from one encounter to another. Some are fun to watch, especially his interactions with a grumpy editor played by Slattery. Some are less fun, like the wonderful Marcia Gay Hard, stuck in an impossible role as the vampish stepmother of Fletch’s girlfriend. Their scenes together are among those with actors who appear to be acting in different movies when it comes to the tone and pacing. And the ending could so easily have been more satisfying instead of ridiculous and borderline nihilistic. As entertaining as it is to see Hamm in the role, the conclusion leaves a sour aftertaste.

Parents should know that this film has some mature material including alcohol and drugs, very strong language, and sexual references and situations.

Family discussion: In what ways is Fletch trustworthy and in what ways is he not? Was what he did at the end fair?

If you like this, try: the Fletch books and the earlier movies

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Grandma

Posted on August 27, 2015 at 5:50 pm

Copyright Sony 2015
Copyright Sony 2015

Lily Tomlin is cranky, feisty, tough, and utterly irresistible in this story of a grandmother who has to visit past decisions about her own life in order to help her teenage granddaughter. Tomlin plays the aptly named Elle (French for “she”), a feminist poet. Her work is respected and influential but that has not translated into financial stability. She has recently cut up her credit cards and made a wind chime out of them.

As we first see her, she is dumping her much younger girlfriend, Olivia (Judy Greer). No “it’s not you; it’s me.” No, “I’ll always remember the good times.” No lyrical meditations on love and loss. Not even any arguments or accusations. Just “It’s over. Leave.”

And then Elle’s granddaughter arrives. Her name is Sage (Julia Garner), and she has a head of fuzzy, soft curls that make her look like a dandelion. She is young and vulnerable but determined. She needs help, and it is clear that she would not be there if she had any other option. She is scheduled to have an abortion that afternoon, but she needs $630. And so Grandma and Sage set off in Elle’s clunker of a car, making desperate visits to people who might be able to help them. So we see a series of encounters, sad, angry, poignant, romantic, score-settling, each impeccably performed by an outstanding cast of actors in small scenes with deepening impact. We learn more about Elle’s life, the wrenching loss she is still mourning, the kindness and unkindness she has shown, and the way she has and has not dealt with the consequences. Standouts include Nat Wolff (“Paper Towns”) as the father, Laverne Cox as a sympathetic tattoo artist, Marcia Gay Harden as Elle’s brisk businesswoman daughter, and Sam Elliott as Elle’s ex.

Writer/director Paul Weitz (“About a Boy”) has taken a story that could be a parody of the worst nightmares of Fox News fans and made it into a very human story of love, loss, and overcoming the fear of intimacy. It is about the families we create and the perfect love we must feel for imperfect people.

Parents should know that this film has very strong and crude language, drinking, drugs, teen pregnancy, and extended discussion of abortion.

Family discussion: Why does Elle break up with Olivia? Why don’t Elle and her daughter get along? Why is the film called “Grandma” and not “Elle” or “Elle and Sage?”

If you like this, try: “The Daytrippers”

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