A review of “Fay Grim” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: R for language and mature themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes

 

 

Quirky director Hal Hartley and inimitable muse Parker Posey take an uncharacteristic misstep in this ambitious sequel that doesn’t get it right.

Sassy Posey does what Posey does best but it’s ultimately for naught. As a strapped single mom her beleaguered Fay Grim becomes embroiled in a sinister affair involving missing ex Henry (Thomas Jay Ryan), the alt-hero of Hartley’s masterful 1997 indie “Henry Fool”.

Flash forward ten years. Fay is raising her rebellious teenage son Ned (Liam Aiken) and getting by on brother Simon’s royalty checks (he’s an underground poet). An unexpected visit from a smooth CIA operative (Jeff Goldblum as Agent Fulbright) sets reality on its ear. Seems Henry’s piss-poor memoirs, a series of volumes long since out of circulation, may be a ticking bomb of corrupt government incrimination.

The agency asks for Posey’s help in retrieving the secret notebooks; in return she asks that Simon (James Urbaniak) – doing time for aiding and abetting Henry’s escape after a vicious decade-old murder – be released from prison.

When it becomes painfully clear that Henry is very much alive and on the run, Fay goes international; traveling to Paris and Istanbul in a political cum romantic escapade that barely masks her desperate attempts to sort out a foreseeable family disaster.

The tone of “Fay Grim” is all wrong; facetious and acutely stagy to the point of preposterous. The players manage to deliver worthy performances – in particular the acerbic Posey as a bumbling super-spy -- but there’s a palpable undercurrent of insecurity where bravado would have been welcome.

The cinematically loquacious Hartley doesn’t miss a beat in maintaining his satirical edge. His style is consistently unique; cut with sharp angles to denote a particular point of view. Grudging points for effort but this is one to skip.