Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

In the movie ‘The O in Ohio’ there was a scene where Parker Posey had a cell phone set to vibrate near her crotch and when somebody called, well, she just went orgasmically bonkers.  There’s also a scene in director Hal Hartley’s film ‘Fay Grim’ where, not having any pockets to place her phone, Parker Posey puts it in her panties (lucky ass phone), set to vibrate, and when someone called she just went orgasmically bonkers.  Parker Posey is like the QUEEN of that gag. I mean she has seriously slammed the door on that joke.  Some director in the future will think of putting a vibrating cell phone in some actresses’ panties, thinking how freaking hilarious it would be, but he will be reminded that Parker Posey killed that gag years ago.  Can’t do it anymore.  It’s over.

‘Fay Grim’, I’m told, takes place ten years after Hartley’s last visit to these characters in his film ‘Henry Fool’, which I have not seen.  Had I seen ‘Henry Fool’ I’m certain I would have liked this movie more because the characterizations were very good and interesting, but ultimately the tone of the film changed far to drastically and ran too long for me to totally enjoy it.

Parker Posey is the title character who is marginally getting along in New York as a single mother, comfortable with the knowledge that her husband Henry (Thomas Jay Ryan) is dead.  She and her teenaged son Ned (Liam Aiken) are living off the poetry residuals of her Nobel Laureate brother Simon (James Urbaniak) who is doing time for his assistance in helping Henry escape in the first film.  Simon’s editor Angus (Chuck Montgomery) has a meeting with Fay to tell her that there is a renewed interest in Henry Fool’s diaries and there could be some monetary gain if she could dig them up somehow.  Also interested in these diaries is the mysterious Agent Fulbright (Jeff Goldblum) as well as every other clandestine government operation in the world as these diaries are thought to possess critical information vital to our nations National Security.

Fay makes a deal with Fulbright.  She’ll go to France or Belgium or wherever the hell the rest of the diaries are and retrieve them if Fulbright arranges for her brother to be released from prison.  Off to France or Russia or wherever hell Fay is going, she is in for quite the adventure as the meek, slightly off, possibly not that bright young woman becomes something of a superspy, using a bit of her natural wit and a lot of lucky circumstance to stay one step ahead of Fulbright and the controlling powers that be.   Fay’s ultimate goal has become reuniting with her husband Henry, whom she thought was dead, but now may not be.  The intrigue continues, the characters are many and freely show up then disappear and the confusion mounts to dizzying levels in this character / spy / politically charged drama.

So this is my first Hal Hartley film.  How a person who has watched as many movies as I have seen over the years managed to miss a complete body of works by a director, of some note, who’s been making films for over twenty plus years is a mystery to me, but from what I am gathering ‘Fay Grim’ is a bit of a departure from the directors typical fare.  Hartley shoots this film almost completely using a Dutch camera angle (tilted Batman style) and why he chooses to do this during the entire film I can’t figure out.  At least in the Batman TV series, simple though it may be, the Penguin and thems hideout was always filmed crooked to let us know that those cats were, well, crooked.  Maybe the director was letting us know that EVERYBODY in this film, including Fay and her teenaged son were crooked too.  If I hadn’t dropped out of my Film Theory class in college and enrolled in that Significant Pop Music of the 1980’s lecture, I may have had an answer for you.

I really enjoyed the first 45 minutes to an hour of ‘Fay Grim’ with the crazy camera angles and snappy dialog.  Jeff Goldblum and Parker Posey work well off of each other and all of the actors show a high level of skill and understanding of their craft and this particular work especially.  Besides, I’m a Parker Posey guy and such the woman can do little wrong in my book, and she does handle Fays’ rollercoaster emotions and awareness with aplomb.  It’s the second half the movie that completely loses me as it becomes bogged down in subtext, innuendo, branching plotlines, dead end plotlines and total confusion.  There are so many characters being introduced and so many divergent stories and situations that you simply stop trying to make sense of it all and simply try to focus on Ms. Posey’s thin pouty lips until the credits roll.  Which won’t happen for two hours.  Damn.

One half Independent character and dialog exercise and one half ‘Spy Game’ without guns, car chases or Brad Pitt (though there is an explosion), ‘Fay Grim’ eventually became a bit of chore to watch and get through.  Call me Parker since I haven’t heard from you in a while.  I got my phone on vibrate – if you know what I saying.

Real Time Web