Fay Grim (USA/Germany; 118 min.)

directed by: Hal Hartley
starring: Parker Posey; Jeff Goldblum; James Urbaniak; Elina Löwensohn; Saffron Burrows
Fay Grim

Michael says: "At certain points throughout FAY GRIM, the latest film by Chlotrudis Award winner Hal Hartley, particularly as the screen went black and the credits began to roll, a little thrill of excitement skittered down my spine. It’s the effect of a good Hartley film, and I was both surprised and excited that I was feeling it. After the slightly disappointing experiment of THE GIRL FROM MONDAY, and my own conflicting opinion about HENRY FOOL, I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy FAY GRIM; particularly because it shares the same universe and serves as a sequel of sorts to the latter film. Fortunately, Hartley and his cast, including Parker Posey as the titular character, James Urbaniak, Jeff Goldblum, and Elina Löwensohn, hit all the right notes to make FAY a winner.

"Fay Grim’s husband, Henry, was last seen ten year’s ago running across the tarmac of an airport, apparently fleeing a charge of murder, or manslaughter for killing a man who was beating his wife. Her brother, the internationally notorious-yet-brilliant poet Simon, is in jail for helping Henry to escape. Her son Ned is having behavior problems in high school. When CIA Agent Fulbright arrives at her home in search of the notebooks containing Henry’s ‘confessions,’ Fay’s life starts to spin dangerously out-of-control. As parts of the outrageous stories Henry used to tell about his life start to be verified by Fulbright, Fay suddenly needs to find him. With gutsy determination, Fay agrees to help Fulbright in exchange for Simon’s release, she finds herself on a dangerous mission of espionage, batted about by international cartels and agents in Paris. As combatants drop around her, and the game keeps changing with allies becoming enemies and vice versa, Fay starts to understand that there is no one she can trust, and if she wants to find Henry, she must do so on her own. It’s fascinating (and strong writing) to watch Fay mature as the film progresses, and Parker Posey does a fine job bringing Fay fully to life.

"Hartley’s writing is in top form here. The satirical, political intrigue is nearly intentionally overwhelming (the details of the plot are not all that important), yet even while he’s satirizing the genre, Hartley is making some pretty pointed political statements about the state of the international world today. His trademark clipped, circular dialogue is more naturalized, but still in evidence. FAY GRIM is a brilliant counterpart to the uneven (and in my opinion, inferior) HENRY FOOL. My biggest problem with HENRY FOOL was in the focus on the title character. Coarse, annoying, ridiculous, Henry was hard to care about; and Thomas Jay Ryan didn’t really do much to connect with the viewer. With Henry firmly in the background in the sequel, Fay is allowed to reel us in; and that, for me, is the greatest success of this, and many other Hartley films. While the bullets and bombs fly, and convoluted plot is unspoiled around her, Fay remains the center of her film, and her humanity, and her compassion ground it. When Elina Löwensohn’s Bebe proclaims to Fay, ‘I knew you were going to be good,’ she’s talking about Fay’s humanity, not her skill in outwitting the feds. And when Hartley winds his film up with one of those truly classic Hartley endings (think TRUST, SIMPLE MEN and AMATEUR) you’ll be thinking, ‘I knew this was going to be good.’ 5 cats"