Tag Archives: Dana Wheeler-Nicholson

Fletch (1985, Michael Ritchie)

While Fletch has its technical high lights and Andrew Bergman’s script is strong both in dialogue and structure (though the Chevy-sized plot holes are a tad rampant), the film hinges on star Chevy Chase (not a car) being arrogant, likable, sincere and funny all at once. And Chase manages it. His dry, self-aware narrative even carries the film over those jumbo plot holes.

Another major factor is the supporting cast. For the most part, Fletch has an extraordinary supporting cast, whether it’s someone with five lines (Ralph Seymour) or someone with more (Richard Libertini). Every single performance in the film is excellent with three exceptions. Joe Don Baker and Tim Matheson are both off. Baker’s too obvious and Matheson doesn’t bring any complexity. Oh, I said three. Yeah, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson isn’t excellent, she’s extraordinary. She isn’t actually in the film for many scenes, but she’s a perfect foil for Chase. Fletch wouldn’t work without her either.

As for those technical highlights… director Ritchie immediately grounds Fletch in reality–as Chase investigates drug trafficking–and it lets him layer on the absurdities later. Even when a scene fails, like a lengthy car chase, it’s still technically competent. Fred Schuler’s photography is good, Richard A. Harris’s editing is better. The Harold Faltermeyer score, while distinctive, has its ups and downs.

Fletch has too much bite to be genial; think amiable but still comfortingly cynical. Great small turns from George Wyner and, especially, Geena Davis. Fletch is a fine time.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Ritchie; screenplay by Andrew Bergman, based on the novel by Gregory McDonald; director of photography, Fred Schuler; edited by Richard A. Harris; music by Harold Faltermeyer; production designer, Boris Leven; produced by Alan Greisman and Peter Douglas; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Chevy Chase (Fletch), Joe Don Baker (Chief Jerry Karlin), Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (Gail Stanwyk), Richard Libertini (Frank Walker), Tim Matheson (Alan Stanwyk), M. Emmet Walsh (Dr. Dolan), George Wendt (Fat Sam), Kenneth Mars (Stanton Boyd), Geena Davis (Larry), Bill Henderson (Speaker), William Traylor (Mr. Underhill), George Wyner (Gillet), Tony Longo (Detective #1), Larry Flash Jenkins (Gummy), Ralph Seymour (Creasy), James Avery (Detective #2), Reid Cruickshanks (Sergeant), Bruce French (the pathologist), Burton Gilliam (Bud), David W. Harper (Teenager), Chick Hearn (Himself), Alison La Placa (Pan Am Clerk), Joe Praml (Watchman), William Sanderson (Swarthout), Penny Santon (Velma Stanwyk), Robert Sorrells (Marvin Stanwyk) and Beau Starr (Willy); special appearance by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED ON BASP | FLETCH (1985) / FLETCH LIVES (1989).

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Denise Calls Up (1995, Hal Salwen)

About ten years ago, the best independent movies–as Fox Searchlight wasn’t around yet–were coming out of Sony Pictures Classics. Denise Calls Up has disappeared. It’s not out on DVD and the VHS is out of print. Hal Salwen is similarly gone–his last film is available, pan and scanned, on DVD, but the one he made after Denise has never been released. The New York independent filmmakers of the 1990s–the only good independent industry of the 1990s–have mostly disappeared….

Denise is an odd film. It’s structured around phone calls. The film is, watched today, a monument to the call waiting-era, which is now mostly replaced by e-mail. Except a film about a bunch of people e-mailing each other doesn’t allow dialogue, which means there wouldn’t be much for the actors to do. Denise gives its actors a lot to do. I think this film is the first one I ever saw Liev Schreiber in. Schreiber–to some degree–caught on and managed to resist Hollywood crap for a while, always doing smaller work. But this film is also the first place I saw Alanna Ubach, who was around for a minute (particularly Clockwatchers), then disappeared. These two are the only ones I’m going to mention, but everyone in the film is great. I can’t figure out how Salwen got such good performances out of them, given the telephone-only talking nature of the film.

While the telephone-specific elements of the film may or may not be outdated, Denise‘s theme of isolation in American culture is more than valid, probably moreso today. Salwen’s an exceptional filmmaker too–Denise is particularly well-edited and the location manager is my hero–it’s unthinkable that he hasn’t gone on to anything more. I hope Sony gets around to releasing it on DVD, just so more people can see it.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Hal Salwen; director of photography, Michael Mayers; edited by Gary Sharfin; music by Lynn Geller; production designer, Susan Bolles; produced by J. Todd Harris; released by Sony Pictures Classics.

Starring Alanna Ubach (Denise), Tim Daly (Frank), Caroleen Feeney (Barbara), Dan Gunther (Martin), Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (Gale), Liev Schreiber (Jerry), Aida Turturro (Linda) and Sylvia Miles (Gale’s Aunt Sharon).