Fay Grim DVD: Review By Dodd

The always-lovely Parker Posey
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
The always-lovely Parker Posey
The storyline really dulls down the espionage thriller.
There is something I find undeniably charming about Parker Posey. The indie darling is generally typecast as a less-than-cheery woman with an attitude, but I never mind this repetition of performance. It is a lot like how I always expect and welcome Jack Black's maniacal routines in films or Lily Tomlin's zaniness in a stand-up act. One of Posey's distinct talents is that she has bite, and she does it well in everything from Dazed and Confused to Best in Show. Once again, in Hal Hartley's Fay Grim, Posey steps into the limelight to play a rather petulant, but likeable leading lady. Unfortunately, her acting ability is the only solid standout in this espionage thriller.

Posey plays Fay Grim, a character some of you Hal Hartley fans may remember from the 1998 film Henry Fool. The story begins with Henry presumably an escaped convict, and Fay left alone raising their 14-year-old son Ned (Liam Aiken). Her brother Simon Grim (James Urbaniak) is now serving time in prison for being an accomplice to his pal Henry's escape. However, he is still permitted to write and publish the poetry that he constructs so well thanks to the motivation of Henry.

The twists begin when CIA Agent Fulbright (Jeff Goldblum) and his gracious assistant Carl (Leo Fitzpatrick) enter the picture. They come to Fay's apartment to inform her that Henry is dead, and that he possessed certain notebooks that contain information more pertinent than just his life story. Henry has apparently penned information that the government would hate to see become leaked, and it will take Fay to retrieve these notebooks. Fulbright puts Fay on a plane for Paris on a simple retrieval mission, but little do the both of them know the complicated twists and turns that will compromise this trip. Fay finds herself up to her knees in conspiracies, and her simple favor for the CIA turns into a question of life or death.

I am a huge film buff, yet I have not gotten to spend as much time with Hartley's films as I would like. However, I can also take comfort in the fact that even fans of Hartley thought this latest project came up short. I think it is safe for me to say, Harley fan or not, that Fay Grim is a rather confusing exercise in espionage. This is not to say I do not like it because I do not get it, but because I didn't feel the motivation to get it. If the Bourne films were crossed with the latest generic classifications of an indie film, then Fay Grim would be the result. The storyline of fear and corruption is there, but there is very little to drive this narrative that should be exciting. Instead we are treated to more of an indie aesthetic that would certainly succeed in a slow-moving character study about love and relationships, but certainly not here in a film about espionage. One example includes a gunshot sequence that is choppy thanks to the utilization of still photos that block out the action. I understand this is supposed to subvert our expectations, but sometimes these experiments simply miss the mark.

What does keep this film afloat at times are its performances. It is not surprising that Parker Posey once again manages to steal scenes as she has done in prior films. Her clueless attitude and mild irritability are always entertaining in every scene. Then you have Jeff Goldblum. The veteran actor brings what he always does to his performances, and I am not going to pretend his performance here is a stretch. The man is simply a natural at the way he delivers dialogue, and people love it. An honorable mention goes to Leo Fitzpatrick as Goldblum's vulnerable assistant. The star of Kids is rather comical here, and his chemistry with Goldblum makes his schtick work.
Making of Fay Grim

Like the film itself, this featurette is rather dry. Besides some interesting talk about the indecisiveness to even make a sequel to Henry Fool, the cast and director just summarize the entire film and blandly discuss the filmmaking experience. I couldn't find anything too rewarding about this particular doc.

Higher Definition

Fay Grim was one of those HD Net films that was released in theaters only to be released on DVD a few days later. This is the HD special hosted by Village Voice critic Robert Wilonsky. I find this to be much more organized and fulfilling than the previous featurette. Wilonsky has a chance to talk with Parker Posey, Jeff Goldblum, and Hal Hartley among others.

Deleted Scenes

There is only a minute and a half of deleted footage here, which is pretty insignificant.

The DVD also includes a trailer for the film.
Widescreen (1.78:1). The film certainly has an indie film to it, but not like some of the other distinctly digital projects from HD Net. Hartley likes to use awkward camera shots and still photo montages that are somewhat clever ideas that just never worked for me here.
5.1 Dolby Digital. The music is never very intense, but quite mellow and drab for an espionage thriller.
Standard Case. The front cover includes various cast members including Posey, Goldblum, and Liam Aiken.
I can't give the highest of recommendations for Fay Grim. This is a rather slow-paced film with good intentions, and perhaps fans of Hartley will eat this one up. Despite strong performances, there is not a very good plot structure for these actors to work with. This is a recommended rental at best.

Questions? Comments? Just want to talk movies? Drop me a line at dodd@movieweb.com

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