Fay Grim (2006)

Parker Posey, Jeff Goldblum, Liam Aiken, D.J. Mendel,
Fay Grim is a movie starring Parker Posey, Jeff Goldblum, and Liam Aiken. A ten-years-later continuation of Hal Hartley's "Henry Fool", where Fay Grim (Posey) is coerced by a CIA agent (Goldblum) to try and locate notebooks that...
  • 6.1 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Writer:
  • Hal Hartley, Director:
  • Martin Hagemann, Jason Kliot, Mike S. Ryan, Joana Vicente, Producer:


10 / 10

Smart, sexy, stylish, and surprising spy story

Fay Grim is, on its face, a tale of espionage and intrigue told with a nod and a wink. As the sequel to his extraordinary Henry Fool, Hal Hartley creates a surprising blend of film noir and hardboiled spy thriller that starts with a knowing smile and large dose of laughter and turns as poignant and warm as any film I've seen this year.

Parkey Posey is Fay Grim, an unwitting Mata Hari caught between the love of her exiled husband Henry Fool and the questionable intentions of a charming CIA operative. As Agent Fulbright, Jeff Goldblum is a master of wit and sarcasm, in a role that seems tailored to his talents. He has never been better. James Urbaniak is Fay's brother Simon, jailed but renowned for his wildly popular books of poetry. His love of his work and his sister brings a jolt of passion to contrast the dour nature of the spies which eventually populate Fay's world. And Liam Aiken is Fay's oversexed 14 year-old son. Although that may be redundant. Aiken's understated style is remarkably "old soul" for someone his age.

The entire film is shot Dutch angle, the off-kilter style made famous by Orson Welles and used primarily in horror films and psychological thrillers to impart a sense of foreboding. In Fay Grim, using that style from opening credits to closing is intriguing at first, deceptively clever the next. For just as the viewer begins to fall for the perfectly timed comedic elements and wit of Hartley's brilliant script, something happens. The film takes a dark yet strangely comforting turn as these characters magically become sympathetic before our eyes. What began as dark comedy morphs into romantic drama, and the transition is masterful. Slow pacing gives way to breathtaking action, and we are sucked right into the vortex.

In the end, Hartley's sharp dialog combined with the amazing performances of a perfectly matched ensemble cast makes for a delicious cinematic cocktail. Told with the luxury of one able to write, produce, direct, edit, and even compose the music, Hal Hartley has crafted a smart, sexy tale of espionage with tongue just barely planted in cheek. Fay Grim is one part Dashiell Hammett, one part Raymond Chandler, and one part Ian Fleming, shaken and maybe stirred as well.

8 / 10

Far Better Than I Expected

When I first heard that Hal Hartley was doing a sequel to Henry Fool, I was excited (it's been a personal favorite for years now), and then wary when I heard it had something to do with terrorism. Having just seen it though, I was surprised to find that it worked, while still being an entirely different sort of movie than Henry Fool. The writing and direction were both dead on and the acting was superb...especial kudos go to Hartley for reassembling virtually the whole cast, right down to Henry's son, who was only four in the original. Like I said though, this movie is quite different from the first, but it works: I reconciled myself with the change in tone and subject matter to the fact that 10 years have passed and the characters would have found themselves in very different situations since the first film ended. In this case, an unexpected adventure ensues...and that's about all I'll give away...not to mention the fact that I'll need to see it again to really understand what's going on and who's double crossing who. While it was certainly one of the better movies I've seen in some time, it suffers like many sequels with its ending, as it appears that Hartley is planning a third now and the film leaves you hanging. I'll be sure to buy my tickets for part 3 ('Henry Grim'?) in 2017.

7 / 10

Surprising stretch of characters and concept in an oddball sequel

The 1997 low-key indie dramedy Henry Fool would seemingly have been a secure choice of movies no one would bother to revisit for a sequel. A rumpled, dissipated drifter (Thomas Jay Ryan) strolls into town. His anarchistic rantings and delusions inspire a nerdy garbage collector (James Urbaniak) to write poems, while Henry half-heartedly tries to boink the guy's sister (Parker Posey). As the poet prospers, Henry declines. Nothing special about any of the characters or the story. A pitch for Harold and Maude's Ghost would have been quoted higher odds of ever making it to a screen.

But Parker Posey ain't the semi-official Queen of the Indies for nothing'. So when writer/director Hal Hartley came up with a new incarnation for his cast, a film was born. Though we catch up with the same characters many years, they're in a completely different sort of dark comedy; this one's laced with espionage! Henry may have been an international spy - and possible double, or even triple, agent - for years before meeting the others. He's either dead or in hiding from agents and authorities of many countries. Everyone wants his rambling, incoherent journal which just may contain coded secrets that could destabilize nations and economies. Posey's Fay is either the wife he left to go on the lam, or his widow, depending on who's telling the truth. Fay's efforts to find Henry and/or the hotly-contested journals include a globe-trotting gauntlet of multinational hit-persons and henchmen at every turn. She never knows who to believe or trust. Nor do we.

While herding these unlikely characters into Jason Bourne/Jack Ryan territory, Hartley's script retains the ironic deadpan humor of their first appearance, steering clear of slapstick in exposing them to physical menaces. His sly lampoon of the paranoia, duplicity and musical-chairs alliances of today's geopolitics starts to crumble towards the end. Even so, fans of the first movie will be pleasantly surprised by the novelty of Hartley's recycling methods. (5/18/07)

8 / 10

Reviewing "Fay Grim" on its own - sort of...

"An honest man is always in trouble." This becomes a timberous theme, shadowing Fay throughout the sequel to "Henry Fool." Her character begins as a confused and tentative interviewee, being interrogated by heavy handed, pushy government ghost-types. Men with authority over her, the ability to cause her and her family harm, without disclosing their own motives and limits are leaning hard and fast on Fay. After a couple of conditions are met, she complies meekly. At least, for a while.

"Fay Grim" is as nicely convoluted as a triple loop roller coaster ride - keeps you off-guard and a little dizzy, but in a good way. The patter and phraseology reminded me somewhat of the cadence of a Mamet work. This played very well with Parker Posey's characterization, as well as that of Jeff Goldblum and James Urbaniak. In fact, Urbaniak, as Simon with the owl-glassed eyes, was superbly down-played as Fay's poet genius, stalwart brother. Henry's very brief appearances gave proof of his very big personality and, quite frankly induced me to queue up "Henry Fool" which I have been very reluctant to do.

Undoubtedly, this is a movie I will watch again. It is quirky, somewhat suspenseful, it makes one think. Certainly, as a result of Hartley's stylish acumen and finesse I will benefit from rewatching to catch other of his artistic strokes I will have missed the first time around.

Agents, spies, intrigue and espionage! A woman bumbling through this all to get to her man, who may not even be alive. By the time Fay is done, this butterfly bestirs ripples afar, you know.

8 / 10

There Is a Pay Off

Convoluted, infuriating and implausible, Fay Grim is hard to sit through but Parker Posey is really the only actress who could take this story and run with it. She's at once touching,funny, cunning. The supporting actors commit to it as well.

I wont even try to tell you the plot.. It involves characters from Hartley's Henry Fool and attempts a tale of international espionage.

The film works well if you continue along with it-understanding it is. in a sense, completely ridiculous. It becomes more and more ridiculous as you plod along. (I resisted the temptation to turn off the DVD twice).

Fay Grim requires an adventurous film-goer willing to tackle something that isn't cookie-cutter. In the end, it offers something that defies description.