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Sundance: Eileen

Set in 1960s Boston, Eileen stars Thomasin McKenzie as the title character, an assistant working at a juvenile detention center. Eileen spends her days taking care of odds and ends at the prison and her nights by taking care of her alcoholic and emotionally abusive father. When psychologist Rebecca (Anne Hathaway) joins the prison staff, Eileen is smitten. Rebecca is blonde, well-dressed, well-mannered and speaks in a lilting Mid-Atlantic accent. Eileen and Rebecca form a close bond that turns sinister as they take an interest in a local criminal case.

Directed by William Oldroyd and based on the novel by Ottessa Moshfegh, Eileen is a solid drama with two very captivating leads. McKenzie and Hathaway play off each other much like Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett do in Carol (2015). There are somethings about the film that worked and some things that didn’t. The LGBTQ storyline is left ambiguous which is a bit of a disappointment. There is a tonal shift that takes this from dramatic love story to murder mystery. Earlier scenes hint at something being afoot but the story’s twist will still catch viewers by surprise. New Zealand born actress Thomasin McKenzie really nails the Boston accent. She doesn’t overplay. Instead it’s a bit more subtle and natural which Massachusetts locals, like myself, will appreciate.

Eileen premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

Jon Hamm in Confess Fletch

Confess, Fletch

The best kept secret in movies these days is the new mystery-comedy  Confess, Fletch. Directed by Greg Mottola and based on the novels by Gregory McDonald, Confess, Fletch stars Jon Hamm as a traveling journalist turned rogue detective who tries to solve a murder, an art heist and a kidnapping all while dealing with a cast of eccentric characters along the way.

Jon Hamm in Confess, Fletch (courtesy of Paramount)
Jon Hamm in Confess, Fletch (courtesy of Paramount)
Ayden Mayer and Roy Wood Jr. in Confess, Fletch (courtesy of Paramount)
Ayden Mayer and Roy Wood Jr. in Confess, Fletch (courtesy of Paramount)
Annie Mumolo in Confess, Fletch (courtesy of Paramount)
Annie Mumolo in Confess, Fletch (courtesy of Paramount)
John Slatterly and Jon Hamm in Confess, Fletch (courtesy of Paramount)
John Slatterly and Jon Hamm in Confess, Fletch (courtesy of Paramount)

Fletch (Jon Hamm) has been traipsing about Europe covering the tempestuous world of art. He’s been hired by the Italian Count De Grassi (Robert Picardo) to solve an art heist and meets and falls for the Count’s daughter Angela/Andy (Lorenza Izzo). When he gets word that Harvard art professor Ralph Horan (Kyle MacLachlan) has recently sold two of the Count’s pieces, Angela helps Fletch out by booking him a luxury apartment in Boston so he can further investigate. Upon arrival, Fletch is greeted with a dead body at the apartment and police detectives Monroe (Roy Wood Jr.) and Griz (Ayden Mayeri) immediately suspect him as the murderer. Fletch takes it upon himself to solve the murder, the art heist and the Count’s kidnapping. He takes on numerous aliases and is always one step ahead of the detectives . Fletch must contend with the lustful Countess (Marcia Gay Harden), the drug addict apartment owner Owen (John Behlmann), the pot smoking airhead neighbor Eve (Annie Mumolo), his old boss Frank (John Slattery) and many other quirky characters.

“I loved Mcdonald’s writing — the books are witty, surprising, full of lively, oddball characters and crackling dialogue. And a great, original protagonist: an irreverent, smart-ass investigative reporter as the stand-in for a detective in a murder mystery plot. Between the banter and the investigations, there’s also incisive social commentary.”

director Greg Mottola
Confess, Fletcher poster art

Confess, Fletch is pure delight. Jon Hamm is utterly charming as Fletch. He gives the role just the right dose of eccentricity without going too far. In fact, the entire movie does a great job balancing the comedy elements with the unfolding mystery. There are so many funny moments but it never feels cheesy. The supporting players all have excellent roles with their own story arcs and quirks. This really adds richness to the story. My favorites were Annie Mumolo’s Eve, a free spirit who is constant danger because she doesn’t take precarious situations all that seriously. Spotting the quirks is half the fun. These include Fletch’s penchant for taking off his shoes, Horan’s germophobia and love of EDM, Frank’s constant cursing, Griz’s bad luck and Monroe’s grogginess from too much work and being a new dad.

I wish there was more of Angela’s character and perhaps a bit less of the Countess. I felt that balance was a bit off. And of course we could have used even more scenes between Hamm and Slattery (a delight for hardcore Mad Men fans like myself). 

As a native Bostonian, I thought the film made great use of on location shooting. The living quarters shown are very luxurious, out of budget for someone like Fletch, but it is adequately explained given the fact that he’s being funded by rich patrons.

Overall, Confess, Fletch is pure comedy gold. Solid storytelling, a great lead, full realized quirky supporting characters and a fun murder mystery plot. And it’s even better on second viewing.

Confess, Fletch is currently in theaters and available to rent or purchase on VOD.

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