FAY GRIM (director/writer: Hal Hartley; cinematographer: Sarah Cawley; editor: Hal Hartley; music: Hal Hartley; cast: Parker Posey (Fay Grim), Liam Aiken (Ned Grim), Thomas Jay Ryan (Henry), Jeff Goldblum (Agent Fulbright), James Urbaniak (Simon), Megan Gay (Principal), Saffron Burrows (Juliet), DJ Mendel (Father Lang), Chuck Montgomery (Publisher); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Hal Hartley/Mike Ryan/Jason Kliot/Joana Vicente/Martin Hagemann; Magnolia; 2006-USA/Germany)
“A disappointing zany character-driven comedy directed by the once promising indie cult auteur Hal Hartley.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A disappointing zany character-driven comedy directed by the once promising indie cult auteur Hal Hartley(“Trust”/”Simple Men”/”The Girl From Monday”), noted for his mannered dialogue, the aping of Godard films and screwy plots, who in recent times has unfortunately veered away from Godard and hit the skids in his filmmaking. Hartley has moved to Berlin, perhaps hoping a location change will bring him luck.
Fay Grim is a CIA in Queens adventure story, a sequel to Henry Fool (1998), that is only occasionally up to speed. It offers a convoluted plot that makes the characters seem staged rather than as real people. Hartley gets lost in his ambitions to say something clever about America’s failures in the world or the failure of the Reagan regime to gain real peace or America’s paranoia over jihadists. Also as a cloak-and-dagger adventure, it fails to meet that genre’s expectations and is too overwrought in its melodrama.
For the last eight years the neurotic Queens resident Fay Grim (Parker Posey) lives off the royalty checks derived from her incarcerated garbage man turned poet brother Simon (James Urbaniak), serving jail time for helping Fay’s hubby Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan) flee the country. Fay is having fits trying to raise by herself her troublesome 14-year-old son Ned (Liam Aiken). Fay fears the kid will turn out like his fugitive father, who has been on the run for all these years. The latest kid incident has him caught showing porn to his classmates and thereby expelled from school.
The duplicitous CIA agent Fulbright (Jeff Goldblum) approaches Fay to help the agency recover the now deceased Henry’s supposedly valuable handwritten autobiographical two volumes of “Confessions,” filled with incoherent writings in code about national secrets, before it reaches the wrong hands. We learn the manuscripts have been located by the French authorities, and Fay as family would be able to recover the tomes. In exchange for her help, Fay bargains for the release of Simon on parole. Of note, Simon is in possession of dad’s third volume.
On this bizarre mission Fay gets trapped in a global espionage game that’s probably too complicated to grok (or care about) accept by maybe Hartley’s most assiduous fans. Thereby the film lost me and probably most of his dwindling sympathetic followers still on the planet. The innocent Queen’s lady, trying to figure out what’s the right thing to do, travels initially to Paris before arriving in Istanbul, where she falls into the hands of terrorists. The colorful climax is filmed as a cliffhanger, along the waterfront in Turkey.
REVIEWED ON 10/12/2014 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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