ON NOVEMBER 20, HERITAGE OFFERS AUTHENTICATED PROPS AND COSTUMES FROM THE MIRAMAX FILM ‘CONFESS, FLETCH’
By Robert Wilonsky
Greg Mottola has a confession: Until he signed on to write and direct the newly released Confess, Fletch, he had never read any of Gregory Mcdonald’s nine novels starring investigative reporter Irwin Maurice Fletcher. Of course, Mottola – the filmmaker responsible for The Daytrippers, Adventureland and Superbad – had seen the 1985 Chevy Chase film based on Fletch, published in 1974. Many men of a certain age – say, in their mid- to late 50s – have introduced themselves as Dr. Rosenpenis, attempted to charge something to the Underhills or insisted it’s all ball bearings nowadays.
But those were all gags written for a movie that bore little relation to Mcdonald’s novel save for some of its plot and a few of its characters. The big-screen Fletch was a bronzed Chevy Chase in a Lakers jersey, a sketch-comedy wise-ass in and out of disguise. As Roger Ebert wrote in his otherwise positive review, “The problem with Fletch is that the central performance is an anthology of Chevy Chase mannerisms in search of a character.” Mcdonald’s Fletch was deadpan funny, a walking eyeroll, as Chase could be at the film’s best moments, but he didn’t need a bald wig or phony teeth to get the laugh.
Mcdonald had been warned: Fletch’s director, the late Michael Ritchie, once counseled him, “You’ll never be satisfied with anything made from your books.” The former Boston Globe columnist, who died in 2008, found the advice helpful. Nonetheless, he long hoped someone would do big-screen justice to his creation, and in Mottola he found the right man for the job.
Confess, Fletch, a largely faithful adaptation of Mcdonald’s second Fletch novel, is a passion project for its star Jon Hamm, who, when broke in the 1980s, famously shoplifted Fletch books after falling in love with the Chase version. But in telling this smart yarn about a stolen art collection and smarmy gallery owners, a murder (or two?), cranky cops and Fletch’s long-suffering editor, Mottola finally presents Fletch as his creator long ago intended: as shrewd, dogged, charming, quick-witted and inexplicably calm even when he screws up, which is often. More like Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye, less like, well, Chevy Chase.
“The original writer who was involved before I was is a very talented, great writer, and there were many funny things in the script he wrote, but his first draft really felt like a draft for Chevy,” Mottola says. “He was very heavily influenced by the first Fletch movie, and I understand that. But Jon and I had said, ‘We want to capture the tone of the book as best we can.’
“Jon didn’t want to do a Chevy impersonation. So when I took over the script, I kind of threw away the plot that was not that close to the book, went back to the book, and started all over again. And I was very enamored of the book – and I had the other books floating around in my head, too. Fletch is a fascinating character. And I kept asking myself, Why now? Why would this character mean something now? Because in the 1970s he was someone who was that irreverent and distrustful of authority, a kind of zeitgeisty type.”
It’s entirely possible you were unaware there’s a new Fletch film, despite its rave reviews and certified-fresh standing on Rotten Tomatoes. “It’s a delightful throwback to an age when a comic mystery fueled by someone with a screen-friendly persona and even screen-friendlier good looks weren’t an anomaly, and a perfect vehicle for Hamm,” said Rolling Stone. “Hamm turns out to be a perfect Fletch,” noted The Daily Beast, “at once clueless and cool, scheming and spontaneous, flying by the seat of his pants and totally sure of himself.”
With little fanfare Confess, Fletch opened in a few hundred theaters on September 16, the same day it made its video-on-demand debut. On October 28, it made its Showtime bow – and a few days later Heritage Auctions’ Confess, Fletch auction opened for bidding featuring authenticated props and costumes from the acclaimed film. This is one of two showcase auctions under the auspices of Heritage’s recently announced partnership with Screenbid. The other features authenticated props (including a certain semi-nude sketch) and costumes from the HBO Original The Time Traveler’s Wife.
Both auctions close on November 20.
“My father is a huge Chevy Chase fan, and growing up I was exposed to all of his films, so when I learned Heritage-Screenbid had an opportunity to offer items from the new Confess, Fletch, I was ecstatic – and so was my dad,” says Jax Strobel, Managing Director in Heritage’s Entertainment and Music category. “Cataloging this film was more fun than work, and I’m excited we’ve been able to bring some iconic hero-worn wardrobe and hilarious props to the fans. Who wouldn’t want to dress like Fletch – or, for that matter, Jon Hamm?”
The Confess, Fletch auction features several ensembles worn by the film’s main characters, among them Hamm’s Fletch (from his suits to his sweats to his Ray-Bans), Roy Wood Jr.’s Inspector Monroe, Kyle MacLachlan’s art-peddling Ronald Horan and, in a Mad Men reunion, John Slattery’s Frank. Here, too, are some Los Angeles Lakers ballcaps – a tip of the cap, as it were, to the 1985 film. And if you’ve ever wanted to walk in Jon Hamm’s shoes – including his Stan Smiths – here’s your chance.
There’s also some (entirely fake) fine art at quite the steal, which befits the film’s plot: replicas of Paul Klee’s 1922 abstract painting Senecio, Claude Monet’s 1865 The Green Wave and El Greco’s Saint Jerome as Scholar, the original of which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
But the most coveted prop from the film is easily Fletch’s driver’s license, its photo taken “while I was in the middle of a yawn,” Fletch explains to Monroe. “Can you imagine that?”
An auction isn’t part of the usual path to promotion – but nothing about Confess, Fletch has been ordinary. Numerous directors and actors, among them Kevin Smith and Jason Sudeikis, flirted with a Fletch film over the years. But Hamm and Mottola sank some of their own hard-earned into this endeavor, always with an eye toward turning this into a series that would continue with the third novel, Fletch’s Fortune.
“It’s a strange position to be in,” Mottola says. “I am very grateful that at least in the world of social media and among some critics, the film is liked and has actually become sort of a talking point about: Does the medium to small movie have a chance anymore, especially comedies? Certain genres like horror still rake in a lot of money. But this is intentionally directed at an older audience. There were enough good reviews and good word of mouth that hopefully people will see it.”
ROBERT WILONSKY is a staff writer at Intelligent Collector.