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The Independent Critic

Parker Posey, Jeff Goldblum, James Urbaniak, Liam Aiken
Hal Hartley
Rated R
118 Mins.
 "Fay Grim" Review 
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In what is being billed as the sequel to "Henry Fool," arguably his best film, Hal Hartley attempts to recapture American audiences with "Fay Grim," a twisting and turning thriller with darkly comic undertones and a quirky style all its own. Utilizing entirely Dutch angles in every camera shot, "Fay Grim" will either captivate you with the uniqueness of its vision or leave you gasping for air with its frenzied pace, intelligently random dialogue and off-kilter visual presentation.

While viewing "Henry Fool," an underrated gem, isn't necessarily required to fully appreciate "Fay Grim," a certain familiarity with the previous film will undoubtedly enhance one's appreciation for "Fay Grim" and for the wonderful performances contained within.

As Fay, indie favorite Parker Posey reprises her role as the ever so neurotic widow left behind by a vanished Henry Fool at the end of the first film. With Henry out of the picture for much of "Fay Grim," Fay tends to her 14-year-old son (Liam Aiken). Simon (James Urbaniak), the writer who took the fall for Henry, sits in prison while Fay falls for his publisher (Chuck Montgomery). When a CIA agent (Jeff Goldblum) shows up at her door one day, the stage is set for a globe-trotting, mind-altering and yet genuinely suspenseful search for the truth about Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan).

Attempting to explain a film such as "Fay Grim" is, in actuality, an exercise in futility. With awkward, occasionally stilted dialogue alongside unusual productiond design and its underlying sense of humor, "Fay Grim," while falling a tad short of the mastery of "Henry Fool" is still a remarkably alive and mesmerizing film.

So, too, in this time in American history surrounded by grave controversy over America's involvement in Iraq and the Middle East, "Fay Grim" is a surprisingly astute and insightful film about the state of world politics.

Posey, long one of my favorite indie actresses, is stellar in a role that deserves to be remembered come time for this year's Independent Spirit Awards. Balancing both the earthiness and the power found within her character, Posey's performance is so finely nuanced that every word spoken speaks volumes and every look, movement and gesture feels important.

Goldblum, who vacillates far too often between cringe-worthy performances and those that are utterly profound, is perfectly cast as the deceptively straightforward Fulbright. "Fay Grim" is, in many ways, a true ensemble film and the rest of the supporting cast shine when called upon.

While it may initially catch you off guard, Sarah Cawley's camera work is a perfect complement to Hartley's Dutch angles, while Hartley himself masterfully scores the film.

While "Fay Grim" possesses enough twists and turns to keep even the most observant moviegoer guessing until the very end, Hartley himself seemed a bit confused about how to end a film that over the course of two hours had become part espionage thriller, part quirky comedy, part family drama, action film and even part family drama. While occasionally drowning under the weight of its quirkiness, intelligence and pretense, "Fay Grim" is an emotionally and intellectually centered film that will resonate with viewers long after the film has ended.

"Fay Grim" was an official selection of the 2007 Indianapolis International Film Festival and opens in limited release on May 18, 2007 with a summer DVD release already scheduled.
- Richard Propes
 The Independent Critic