Jeff Goldblum, Parker Posey. Fay fears her son Ned will end up like his ne'er-do-well father Henry, for years a hunted fugitive. Her brother Simon is also serving time for trying to help Henry flee the country. When a CIA agent tries to enlist Fay's aid in finding Henry's missing notes, things spiral out of control into a deadly game of international espionage. 2006/color/118 min/R.
Fay Grim is Hal Hartley's version of the espionage thriller. Consequently, it's more peculiar than pulse-pounding, but that's what makes his films appealing--to those who appreciate their off-kilter rhythms, that is. In Hartley's world, dialogue is often delivered with a straight face, no matter how funny the line or farcical the situation. In Fay Grim, he picks up seven years after Henry Fool left off, but this time the writer/director shifts focus from novelist Henry (Thomas Jay Ryan) to his seemingly scattered wife, Fay (Parker Posey). Their son, Ned (Liam Aiken), is now in his teens, but Henry remains at large, and Fay's "garbage man poet" brother, Simon (James Urbaniak), remains in prison for aiding in his escape. Then two CIA operatives, Fulbright (Jeff Goldblum) and Fogg (Leo Fitzpatrick), inform her that Henry is dead, so Fay agrees to track down his complete set of diaries in exchange for Simon's freedom. Apparently, Henry's incoherent ramblings contain state secrets. Joining forces with stewardess Bebe (Elina Löwensohn), Fay travels from Queens to Paris to Istanbul to fulfill her mission. In the end, Fay Grim resembles Hartley's noir parody Amateur, which featured Löwensohn, more than Henry Fool. It has less to say about talent and celebrity and more about mystery and intrigue. For the filmmaker, it also represents an opportunity to reunite a strong ensemble and to recover, at least for the time being, from a string of disappointments, like No Such Thing and The Girl From Monday. --Kathleen C. Fennessy