• Joe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #189: Irwin M. Fletcher


"Using the whole fist, doc?"

There was a time when Chevy Chase was funny. Really funny. And if his early-80s run of Caddyshack, Spies Like Us, and Vacation was Hall of Fame stuff, then Fletch was arguably his MVP season. Chase's smug detachment was perfect for bringing to life Gregory Mcdonald's investigative chameleon. With deadpan ambivalence, Chase's Fletch lopes through the jungle of seamy characters inhabiting LA's murky underbelly, from the drug scene of the beach to the crooked police precinct to the white-collar villains of the country-club set. With characteristic slacker-cool, Fletch says and does whatever he wants or needs to say or do, pursuing truth, justice, and his own pleasures. This isn't James Bond or Indiana Jones or Batman. This is a frumpy reporter with a quick wit and a dash of resourcefulness keeping one step ahead of his own lies.


And what lies. Names, backstories, whole identities spring from an imagination so fertile that it considers how an afro would affect his playing height were he improbably a professional basketball player. He uses these glib inventions to chase a story, but also to seduce wealthy ladies, swindle steak sandwiches, and - less successfully - to evade his ex-wife's lawyer. It's a quotable film due in large measure to Fletch's ongoing patter, which he seems only nominally in control of, as if dialogue were both tool and obsessive behavior. He's a wise-ass, even when it risks getting him shot or manhandled, and the film - and books - never really give much consideration to his relative moral core. If Fletch is a good guy, it's only because the scum around him are that much worse than he is.


And yes, I acknowledge only the one film. Now go enjoy the Beatles' White Album with a glass of hot fat.

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