Confess, Fletch

Confess, Fletch

The pandemic is not over. Please stop acting like it is. I’m not saying you have to retreat from the exterior world, because there are ways to navigate it safely and with maximum care for the people around you. So do that, OK? There is enough wrongheaded terror in the air as it is, there’s no reason to make it worse. Just take some time and chill out — entertainment options are plentiful, despite what the shortsighted monsters at Warner Bros. Discovery have been up to, vanishing entire works of art from existence to take tax write-offs. Be strong, be safe, and above all, be smart.

Below are our latest recommendations of what to stream. Look back at past issues of the Scene for more.

Confess, Fletch for rent via Amazon Prime, Apple TV+ and more

With the exception of Foul Play, I don’t have too much allegiance to the film work of Chevy Chase, so I don’t particularly view the previous pair of Chase-starring Fletch films as any kind of sacred text. (Notable exception: the scintillating Stephanie Mills/Harold Faltermeyer collaboration “Bit by Bit,”  which is one of the great synth-pop movie theme songs of the ’80s.) I do love a good mystery with a smart and lived-in vibe (see also: the messy but way underrated 1987 Whoopi Goldberg joint Burglar), and with Jon Hamm stepping into the titular role of Gregory McDonald’s sardonic investigator, Confess, Fletch becomes exactly the kind of comfort viewing that anybody jonesing for the forthcoming Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery would do well to check out.

Director Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland) crafts exactly the right vibe for the proceedings, and the cast is superb. It’s not just Hamm nailing the exact right tack for the character, but also Lorenza Izzo and Marcia Gay Harden periodically taking over things as a pair of stepmother-and-daughter Italian aristocrats, or Barb Quicksilver herself Annie Mumolo as a stoner hanger-on who finds several different planes of existence for her character. This is the kind of movie you want to hang out with and sip on hibiscus wine while you make ornate and experimental pasta dishes. Let’s hope Paramount/Miramax beefing the release plan doesn’t preclude us getting several more of these films, because Hamm is perfect for this role. Confess, Fletch has finished its very limited local theatrical run, and the only way to watch the film currently is to rent it for $20 via a streaming service.

When I Consume You for rent via Amazon Prime, Apple TV+ and more

I don’t often dwell on the time I spent in the long, long ago programming for a local film festival, but I always keep track of what the directors whose work I shepherded are getting up to. Part of it is professional responsibility to see interesting and provocative work, and some degree of it is pride — the legacy of that time invested in new voices has yielded untold dividends. Case in point: Perry Blackshear. His 2015 film They Look Like People (currently streaming on Shudder, Tubi and Hoopla) is a stone masterpiece that won Best Feature at that year’s Nashville Film Festival (as well as Best Actor for MacLeod Andrews, who pops up here along with several other Blackshear alumni).

The director is back with a relentless careen through the limits of the human psyche called When I Consume You. It has demons, both metaphorical and literal, and an exceptional pair of lead performances from Evan Dumouchel and Libby Ewing as siblings facing a threat that transcends the concrete lives they’ve been living, forcing family ties to suddenly suspend a whole new abstract world. I don’t want to give too much away; this one has a superb narrative shift that you really ought to experience for yourself. Just know when you see the name Perry Blackshear, you’re in good hands. 

The Killing of Randy Webster via YouTube

Note: There are two different versions of this on YouTube. The longer one includes the commercials as broadcast during the film’s second airing in 1982, and that’s the one I went with. It is a very culturally rich experience, but it does feature a couple of surprise sex predators lurking like jump-scares. That, however, is the unvarnished truth of our TV history.

Based on a true story about a Texas police department’s habit of deploying “throwdown” guns to retroactively justify the use of deadly force, this is a surprisingly effective made-for-TV movie that stars Hal Holbrook and Dixie Carter. (They met while making this, and married in 1983.) It also features Sean Penn, Anthony Edwards, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Barry Corbin and Anne Ramsey. The character of Randy is a fuck-up kid (played by Gary McCleery) who gives off weird vibes and who ends up shot to death by the Houston police after they claim he stole a van and pulled a gun on the cops. The structure draws heavily on the Rashomon style of the same event told from multiple perspectives as the Webster family talks to different witnesses to the event, and it’s amazing that a film this focused on eschewing the blind acceptance of authority narratives could have been aired on a major network without causing a furor. As it is, this is essential viewing for anyone looking for made-for-TV films that deliver something special, as well as anyone interested in amazing moments in actressing. Dixie Carter is magnificent in this film, working with outfits and gestures and making a hell of a motion picture debut. Not to be missed.

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