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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice rebound from Hartley
Hal Hartley has in my opinion made several great films: AMATEUR, BOOK OF LIFE, SURVIVING DESIRE and HENRY FOOL are the best, unique deadpan comedies and dramas in love with language and human weakness, with moments of inspired poetry, verbal and visual. He is also an "art" filmmaker, making films that have never crossed over to a larger audience; his one "big budgeted"...
Published on May 23, 2007 by J. Kenney

versus
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mainly For Hartley Fans
I'm one of those people who'd crawl a mile through broken glass to see a Hal Hartley film. From TRUST and IRIS to Henry Fool and (my Hartley favorite) No Such Thing, Hal's unique brand of movies are an acquired taste. Infusing equal parts mystery/espionage with wispy comedy seems to be his forte. The comedy isn't in your face necessarily, and often runs throughout an...
Published on June 9, 2007 by B. Merritt


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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mainly For Hartley Fans, June 9, 2007
By 
B. Merritt "filmreviewstew.com" (WWW.FILMREVIEWSTEW.COM, Pacific Grove, California United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fay Grim (DVD)
I'm one of those people who'd crawl a mile through broken glass to see a Hal Hartley film. From TRUST and IRIS to Henry Fool and (my Hartley favorite) No Such Thing, Hal's unique brand of movies are an acquired taste. Infusing equal parts mystery/espionage with wispy comedy seems to be his forte. The comedy isn't in your face necessarily, and often runs throughout an entire scene before coming to fruition. And that's the case with FAY GRIM, the sequel to Henry Fool.

Parker Posey stars as Fay Grim, abandoned wife of Henry Fool and mother to Henry's only son Ned. Fay lives a quiet life until she comes home one day to find a CIA agent in her kitchen. His name is Fulbright (Jeff Goldblum, Man of the Year) and he wants Henry's notebooks. There are many Henry Fool notebooks and they were all previously believed to contain nothing but mad wanderings. Apparently there's much more to them. Secrets weapons research or paths to terrorists? Who knows but Henry. Agent Fulbright tells Fay that her husband is dead but this is quickly surmised as a ruse to get Fay out of her home and searching for Henry (and it works ...but not the way they think).

Fay battles multiple spy rings to gather Henry's notebooks and to seek him out. She also makes a deal with the CIA to get her brother Simon (James Urbaniak) out of prison (he'd helped Henry escape the country in the original Henry Fool film.)

Multiple overlapping events occur in rapid succession: spy rings shoot each other to death, Henry is discovered being held in "safety" by a jihadist, Fay frees her brother but unknowingly risks her son's life, and the CIA gets its comeuppance for putting Fay in danger.

Hal Hartley obviously loves to play with themes. And he does so to the extreme here. Even character names (Grim, Fool, Fulbright, Fogg) have implicit meanings of their own that are quite funny. The over-the-top espionage films of ol' are given plenty of screen time, too, as guns blaze in stop-motion sequences, never striking our heroine even though she's right in the line of fire.

Now that I've heaped praise on this creation, I will say that Parker Posey's excessive portrayal of Fay Grim isn't the best part of the film, which is a shame considering how much time she's on-screen. I realize this was probably what Mr. Hartley wanted: an uncurbed woman with hand gestures to the Italian extreme. But it was still painful to watch at times.

Even so, fans will probably devour Fay Grim and beg for more. Though this wasn't my favorite Hal Hartley film, I know I'm ready.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice rebound from Hartley, May 23, 2007
This review is from: Fay Grim (DVD)
Hal Hartley has in my opinion made several great films: AMATEUR, BOOK OF LIFE, SURVIVING DESIRE and HENRY FOOL are the best, unique deadpan comedies and dramas in love with language and human weakness, with moments of inspired poetry, verbal and visual. He is also an "art" filmmaker, making films that have never crossed over to a larger audience; his one "big budgeted" film, NO SUCH THING, is easily his worst, and in fact, since BOOK OF LIFE in 98, his work has been largely interesting without being wholly successful, as he has become more concerned with political and social issues than interpersonal ones; he has a tendency to be a little too on-the-nose on these topics, with both THING and GIRL FROM MONDAY tending towards self-righteous polemics that rail against too-obvious topics without much effect. MONDAY is much better than THING, but neither work as well as any of his earlier work.

FAY GRIM, a sequel to HENRY FOOL, is a large step back in the right direction; while more political than ever, he integrates it into his unique deadpan storytelling style much better than he has previously this decade, and offers moments of inspired lunacy and heart that haven't been seen since BOOK OF LIFE. GRIM is a bit overstuffed, and likely won't win many converts, but fans of Hartley's work in the 90s who have not forgotten his inimitable style and point of view will welcome this film, warts and all, which plays like a kind of very dry international thriller (don't go looking for any action scenes, as much of the violence that does occur plays out in freeze-frame sequences) mixed with the family/love story comedy found in FOOL.

It's nice to see Jeff Goldblum and Saffron Burrows smoothly join the mix of usual Hartley regulars, though it'd be nice if Hartley and Martin Donovan could team up again. The DVD is widescreen anamorphic (shot on high definition video), with some reasonable extras.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars stylish film but with diminishing returns, July 17, 2007
By 
This review is from: Fay Grim (DVD)
**1/2

"Fay Grim" is Hal Hartley's strange, fitfully amusing but ultimately unsuccessful follow-up to his "Henry Fool," an independent feature from 1997 that achieved a certain degree of critical acclaim and financial success upon its release in 1998.

Parker Posey returns as Fay Grim, the wife of the aforementioned Mr. Fool, the literary poseur who disappeared mysteriously at the end of the previous picture taking the multi-volume "confessions" he had written right along with him. Fay is barely keeping the frayed strands of her life together when a couple of CIA agents (the main one played by Jeff Goldblum) arrive on the scene to inform her that not only is her missing husband believed to be dead but that the French government would like nothing better than to get its hands on Fool's inscrutable manuscripts, which, apparently, contain coded information of great value to many of the world`s premier powerbrokers. The agents convince Fay to fly to Paris to engage in some serious cloak-and-dagger espionage for the American government. While there, she finds herself quickly embroiled in a complex web of secrecy, lies and international intrigue centered around the man she married but now realizes she never really knew much about.

With its tongue-in-cheek style and preposterously over-complicated storyline, "Fay Grim" is admittedly something of an acquired taste. Some viewers may be intrigued by the hip, postmodernist tone and approach the movie adopts towards its subject matter, while others may find the whole thing insufferably pretentious and annoying. I'm afraid I fit more into the second category, for despite its undeniable cleverness, the movie tends to way overplay its hand, with deliberately arch and self-conscious dialogue - comprised mainly of endless non sequiturs, a rat-a-tat-tat delivery and clipped phrasing - that wears out its welcome very early on. Ditto for the acting, which is intentionally deadpan, one-note and mannered throughout.

At times, the movie's satirical commentary on the insanity of life in the modern world is pointed and acerbic, while, at others, the film is simply too cute by half to really make its case very effectively. "Fay Grim" earns points for at least trying to be different, but you have to be in a very special kind of a mood to truly enjoy it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars OK....so it's not Henry Fool, but none the less...., September 1, 2007
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This review is from: Fay Grim (DVD)
To be frank, mostly what we get here is our best chance to see Parker being Parker that we have had in simply forever. I mean, tell me : How long have you been waiting ? Since Party Girl, perhaps ?

Well your wait is over. She is ever so beautiful, ever so well-dressed, and ever so over-the-top. If you are a Parker fan, then I promise you this will be way more than enough.

Plus we get to see the rest of the old "Fool" gang with some worthy additions. And ten years later, who would have ever thought, you know ??

And yes, the fact that now, for some strange reason it's become all about spies, the CIA, the KGB, and Islamic terrorists...that's a bit different for sure.

But if you are just looking for some great eye-candy, and have the sort of sense of humor that any true Parker fan has.....well....why would you want to miss this movie ? You can't quite follow the plot line ? So what ? That's probably part of the joke. You won't really care, believe me.

And don't forget......

"An honest man is always in trouble"

So...there you go, eh ?
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Unexpected Sequel, January 1, 2008
By 
G P Padillo "paolo" (Portland, ME United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fay Grim (DVD)
As Henry Fool is among my top 10 favorite films, I was shocked, surprised, baffled I'd never before heard of a "sequel" until told by my brother a few months ago. I wrestled with watching, not wanting to spoil a nearly perfect film memory with a substandard follow-up. I needn't have waited, as Fay Grim finds Hartley and Co. in as fine a form as ever, the characters we fell in love with in "Henry" now older, wiser and a little world weary. Parker Posey is a force of nature as Fay. We watch her still somewhat unraveling life as a single mom in Queens, worrying about her brother, Simon still serving a long prison sentence for his role in Henry's escape - an episode that confounded viwers at the end of the first film. Additionally she's fearful of the legacy Henry left for their child (the marvelous Liam Aiken) now a teenager ever in trouble at school, and who's escapade at film's start (involving an ancient type of ViewMaster with pornographic images, suggesting the long missing Henry has somehow made contact with his son), and some guilt over her affair with Simon's publisher.

A film fleshing out these characters is precisely what most directors would've made, but oh, not Hal. From the first minutes, things spin out of control when CIA Agent Fulbright shows up in her kitchen, proposing to her that those journals of confession . . . . "the masterpiece" Henry lugged throughout the first film are a sort of key to understanding multi-national terroristic occurrences that peppered the last part of the 20th century. A complex plan is set in motion for Fay to retrieve Henry's diaries in France, and single mom Fay, begins a worldwide tour that pushes the story into one of international intrigue, espionage, the power of love and longed for redemption.

All of the classic Hartley "ticks" are present: odd camera angles, rapid fire, clearly annunciated yet near impossible to comprehend dialogue delivered both rapidly and in a long forgotten deadpan style best described as "theatrical" - and other devices that alienate some audiences, while invigorating others. It is not without flaws, but this is true of all masterpieces, and Fay Grim is a masterpiece. Hartley takes these now well known characters (at least to "Fool" fans) and obliterates any preconceived notions we may have held about their fates. While there are plenty of darkly comic moments to cause outright laughter, there are, too, scenes of enormous emotional weight that are no less than Shakespearean in their delivery. It is this combination of comic and gut busting intensity that Hartley has always excelled at, and which make his work so genre-bending.

The performances from every single cast member are uniformly excellent. This is true right down to the smallest roles which in most films might be perceived as "extras" such as a hotel clerk, or a security guard, a casual observer in the street - all of them are people who are burned into your memory and essential to the telling of the tale at hand: there seems to be no such thing as an "extra" in this film. Particular kudos go to Ms. Posey takes Fay on a truly life transforming journey. One need only look at the image of her from the film's beginning and the very final image of her to understand the heart of Fay and of this film.

I've avoided reading reviews of "Fay Grim" before watching it tonight, but the fact that a year after its release I hadn't even heard of it, tells me this didn't do as well as anyone may have hoped. While I'm disappointed that this film (or Henry) take back seats in audience popularity to the mass produced dreck from big budget Hollywood system, it is encouraging to see that Hartley is still at it, still relevant, still making movies that can sweep one with the force of a hurricane into a world of wonder - a world where everything disparate and foreign and everyone "good" or "bad" is forever connected, still part of the same amazing universe.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for everyone..., February 21, 2008
By 
Mark Fradl (Austin, TX United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fay Grim (DVD)
Have you ever watched a movie and it just clicked? The movie wasn't perfect - in fact it was probably quite flawed - but it hit you at just the right time for it to resonate. It's a movie that you hesitate to recommend, it's a movie you can perfectly understand people hating, and yet for you it actually rose to the level of masterpiece. And even as you love it you realize that if you had seen it at a time when you were a little more distracted, or a little more impatient, or a little more tired, you would have probably hated it. Lost in Translation was such a film for me. So was Mother Night. And now i happily add Fay Grim to that list.

I should have hated it. It betrayed the quirky simplicity of Henry Fool by making the characters all part of some absurdly complex and far-reaching spy plot. It almost plays like a satire on Hollywood sensibilities: "How about if we make a simple film about a frustrated, misunderstood writer who inspires an unrealized poet?" "OK, as long as the writer ends up actually being an international spy wanted by the CIA!"

And yet, this film works. It works magnificently. Not really a sequel to Henry Fool, more like a riff on Henry Fool, like an interesting thought experiment in re-imagining an existing story in the most far-fetched way. But it works. The spy plot is Byzantine in it's complexity but if you're paying attention it remains logical and consistent. The character are - as in all Hal Hartley films - played in an overly theatrical manner, somewhere between kabuki and sketch comedy, and yet it works. The dialogue... the dialogue is classic Hartley, endlessly quotable, with fabulously intelligent lines dropping left and right.

I can't promise you'll like this, I can't even promise you'll stay awake. All I can say is if you liked Henry Fool and Amateur (and DEFINATELY start with those-- DO NOT make this your first Hartley film) then give this a shot.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A spoof that sometimes hits/misses. Worth a try, September 22, 2007
By 
Gary Coffrin (San Jose, California, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Fay Grim (DVD)
This is a low-budget and highly stylized spoof of the espionage genre.

To help frame your expectations, you should know that: (1) The acting is wildly heavy-handed. The stars are having great fun delivering their lines with excessive eye movement, frequent hand gestures, and off-key pacing. (2) The script deliberately lacks continuity and plausibility. Oftentimes lines are abruptly jarring and humorous because they have absolutely no relevance to previous plot elements. (3) Shots are frequently framed in off-balance angles, poking fun at genre excesses. (4) A pop-eyed Jeff Goldblum delivers complex and classically preposterous dialog in a winningly sarcastic manner.

The film has a guiding intelligence. It starts with a plot element stolen from the B-films of the 1930's and 40's: a secret code with a structure that would defy explanation by Carl Sagan.

The film's deliberately over-the-top acting is used mostly for comic effect during the first 90 minutes. Parker Posey's nicely choreographed fall from bed helps set a humorous tone near the start of the film. In an early running gag, Fay Grim's son Ned is so frequently told to leave that you can't help chuckling while feeling sorry for the lad.

The film's slow pacing does not enhance the comedy elements or the drama that later emerges. The impact if the film's concluding bloodbath is perhaps lessened by the movie's tone - that is, it is hard to be overly involved with the characters when the film is so heavily sarcastic and with continual confusion of who is on which side. The musical score is intentionally heavy handed, and I found this (and the off-kilter camera angles) more irritating than humorous.

The implausible and nearly incomprehensible plot of conspiracies/counter conspiracies, over-the-top acting, and slow pacing may grind on some viewers. The movie is much too long at 2 hours and 38 minutes.

That said, fans who are receptive to the film's sarcasm might want to watch again ... using closed captioning to best catch the deliberate and intelligent ridiculousness of the script. The film was too slow for me and the sarcasm felt more heavy-handed than light-hearted. But, the comedy may well appeal to your tastes.

The film is worth a view for those who enjoy independent films, fans of director Hal Hartley, or devotees of Parker Posey (who has the most camera time).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars WHY DID THE COMEDY STOP?, September 14, 2010
This review is from: Fay Grim (DVD)
The movie starts out as a comedy with unlikely scenarios and amusing dialogue. Fay Grim's husband,Henry FOOL, a former garbage man, is on the lam for killing a man. Her brother Simon Grim is in prison for aiding him. Fay lives off her brother's royalties for his poetry writing (Who does that?). At one point the principle of her son's school suggests she move. Jeff Goldblum shows up as a CIA agent, and not a geek scientist, to ask Fay for assistance. Henry has written some books, rejected by the publisher as gibberish, only to find out that the fantastic stories in his diaries are true and the CIA wants them. Fay encounters a number of spy rings who shoot each other in a series of something one might expect in a Pink Panther movie. The film moves about with plot twists until Fay decides to take matters into her own hands. When Fay goes to Turkey, all of a sudden the movie stops any attempt at humor and suddenly shifts into a serious mode. Unfortunately by this time the plot is so twisted you really don't know who to root for or even care. You just want the movie to get on the lite side again and it never does.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Parker Rocks!!!, June 27, 2007
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This review is from: Fay Grim (DVD)
Everyone in this film did an awesome job acting the silly yet saavy roles. Great film and had a wild pace and lots of action and Hilarious facial expressions by Posey. Loved it:)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Start with HENRY FOOL, continue agog at FAY GRIM, June 21, 2013
This review is from: Fay Grim (Amazon Instant Video)
Don't make my (almost) mistake, start with Henry Fool. I don't wish to discuss one without the other because of reasons made clear below.
It would be difficult for me to discuss my sudden love of these two films without providing some context. FAY GRIM has long been a recommended film for me on Amazon, probably because of my random predilection towards Indie films. I'm also a fan of Parker Posey, mainly from her work in Christopher Guest's improvisational mockumentaries, and James Urbaniak, from his work on Venture Brothers. So I began to watch a film billed as a comedy, drama, and a thriller. I was instantly confused, or more accurately- put off and fascinated by the constant Dutch angles, inherent quirkiness and the stylized, almost theatrical, blocking and character movement. I wasn't sure if I liked it or not; to provide perspective I consulted IMDB, thinking information on the writer/director may illuminate things. To my surprise, FAY GRIM is the 2006 sequel to a 1998 indie called HENRY FOOL, starring the same cast. So naturally, ten minutes in, I stopped to track down Henry. It was conveniently on Amazon as well. There I found a film strange, quirky and in some ways indicative of the 90's independent filmmaking. Henry Fool, while the title character, is more about James Urbaniak's character Simon Grim, an quiet, awkward garbage man from Queens. Henry Fool is the strange alcoholic, blow hard drifter who upsets the dysfunctional balance of the Grim home by serving as Simon's mentor. Fool convinces him to write down his thoughts, these become controversial, avante garde poems. HENRY FOOL isn't for everyone. The subject matter is rough and crude (similar to Showtime's SHAMELESS); the camera work and acting is heavily stylized. The director Hal Hartley came up in the independent film boom of the 90's. His quirky fingerprints are all over the place- the names are indicative of the characters as Henry seems much the fool and Simon's life and attitude is definitively grim. There is even a conservative anti-immigrant politician character cheekily named Owen Feer. A shot is framed and one character will drift off frame and reappear, constantly changing levels as a stage actor would.
Then comes FAY GRIM, the name of Parker Posey's character, and the sequel's title. This movie is almost completely different. Its an honest to goodness international spy thriller, though the strange and stilted characters are thrust, seemingly haplessly into this world. Suddenly, everything you learned or thought you learned by the end of HENRY FOOL is cast into doubt. This once poor and still dysfunctional Grim family is inadvertently caught up in something involving five different international espionage agencies and global terrorism. Keep in mind the setting of HENRY FOOL was essentially ONE NEIGHBORHOOD, suddenly these same characters are unraveling government codes and globe trotting. And, yes, the absurdity of that is part of the fun and genuine humor. The juxtaposition would be lost without HENRY FOOL however. If this interests you at all THAT must be required viewing. The real magic is this- by the third act, you're convinced; you're invested. You see character's in a profoundly different light. I'm probably the only person I even tangentially know who have seen these small obscure films, but there are some really wonderful little things I could delve into in a real conversation. One I will mention, HENRY FOOL ends ambiguously and in FAY GRIM that ambiguity is excoriated by the characters. As if they are saying, "that ending wasn't ambiguous at all. Weren't you paying attention." Given the radical tonal and substantive shift from HENRY FOOL to FAY GRIM, I was excited to learn that Hartley is currently working on the final film in the trilogy, NED RIFLE. Again with the same cast of actors and characters. While I'm sure his quirky, pseudo-theatrical style won't change, I look forward to wherever he takes this unique mythos.
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Fay Grim
Fay Grim by Hal Hartley (DVD - 2007)
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