FAY GRIM
© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.

often audiences
see films that
they might wish
went on longer.
Or they might
leave the movie
theater and
wonder what
happened next
to the people who were on screen. Sometimes
a filmmaker will oblige by making a sequel,
sometimes the audience is left to use its
imagination. Unfortunately, this is not one of
them.

In 1997, Hal Hartley wrote and directed
the critically-acclaimed
HENRY FOOL, a
comedy-drama about a garbage man from
Queens who sets out to write a "Confession" he
is certain will turn not just the literary world --
but all of the globe -- on end. The effort,
however, is deemed unpublishable and Henry has
to flee the country after committing an
accidental murder. He poses as his neighbor, a
well-known poet and leaves behind a wife (who
happens to be said neighbor's sister). Now
nearly a decade later, Hartley has revisited the
characters (and luckily has been able to hire the
same actors) in
FAY GRIM.

This movie possesses Hartley's off-kilter humor,
oddball characters, non sequiturs, and a
complicated plot involving the CIA and its
involvements with foreign governments,
espionage and possibly terrorism. It's a far cry
from the intimate work that formed Hartley's
reputation (
THE UNBELIEVABLE TRUTH,
TRUST
). In recent years -- indeed since HENRY
FOOL
, the filmmaker has been tackling big
issues with less than satisfying results.
Unfortunately, such is the case with
FAY GRIM
as well.

The plot picks up seven years after the end of
the original film. Henry (Thomas Jay Ryan) has
departed for parts unknown and Simon (James
Urbaniak) has been in prison for assisting in his
flight. Fay (Parker Posey) has struggled to raise
her son Ned (Liam Aiken) but seems to be
entirely and utterly clueless. Things
begin to shift as the film opens though. Simon's
publisher Angus (Chuck Montgomery) has asked
Fay for a meeting -- he is now reconsidering the
idea of publishing Henry's "Confession," even
though he thinks it has no literary merit. By
using Fay, Angus gets a copy of one of the
notebooks to Simon in prison. Simon becomes
convinced that the manuscript is actually written
in code and may contain state secrets.

Fay's life gets more complicated when two CIA
agents -- Fulbright (Jeff Goldblum) and Fogg
(Leo Fitzpatrick) show up. Fulbright informs Ms.
Grim that her husband is dead and that as his
widow she must go to France to retrieve two
volumes of Henry's opus. Initially reluctant, Fay
agrees on the condition that Simon be released
from prison. Once in France, Fay begins to learn
that she hasn't exactly been told the truth.
There are several people after the notebooks
including Juliet (Saffron Burrows) who may be an
Israeli agent, an Arab posing as a bellboy
(Nikolai Kinski), and a woman named Bebe
(Elina Löwensohn) who claims to be in love with
Henry.

Hartley juggles numerous balls and the plot
mechanics become a bit tedious -- especially
when Fay disappears for stretches and minor
characters take center stage. The movie tries for
a lighthearted feel but the subject matter is
dark and the two don't exactly mesh. The
comedy is not broad nor does it invoke belly
laughs. It might bring a smile or cause a chuckle
but that's all.

The cast does well given the limitations of the
screenplay. Posey has to carry most of the film
and her flighty yet flinty performance is a joy to
behold. She continues to impress as one of the
most interesting character actresses working in
films today.

But ultimately,
FAY GRIM turns out to be
something of a disappointment. Hartley's
approach is as if he decided to make the kind of
political thriller that was prevalent in the 1970s
(like
THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR or THE
PARALLAX VIEW
) and turn it into a screwball
comedy. It's a bad fit and strands an intriguing
and talented cast.



Rating:                C
MPAA Rating:       R for language and
                         some sexuality
Running time:      118 mins.


Viewed at Magno Review Two
Parker Posey in the
Hal Hartley's film
FAY GRIM

Photo courtesy of
Magnolia Pictures.