- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2007

“Fay Grim,” oh titular character, Hal Hartley fans are probably ecstatic to see you again. They’ve waited 10 long years for you to pick up the narrative of his lauded 1997 film, “Henry Fool.” In fact, they may be depending on you to restore their faith in the indie filmmaker (and boost his Rotten Tomatoes fruit quotient back to the level that his ‘90s flicks like “Simple Men” and “Trust” enjoyed); his recent work has been less than well received.

Fay (the deliciously deadpan Parker Posey) emerged a decade ago as the slatternly sister of garbage man Simon (James Urbaniak). When a stranger named Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan) showed up and began living in their Woodland, Queens, home, both Grims found their lives irrevocably changed.

While working on his own written “confessions,” he encouraged Simon to pen his own memoir, which would eventually earn the amateur author notoriety and a Nobel Prize. And despite a dark past that involved a child molestation charge, Henry somehow made Fay his wife and knocked her up. At the film’s conclusion, his past had caught up with him, causing him to flee from authorities (we weren’t really sure why), leaving Simon in jail as an accomplice to his escape.

In the sequel, we find Fay a single mother who’s concerned that her son will develop his father’s illegal tendencies. Meanwhile, Simon’s been stewing in prison and is beginning to suspect that Henry may have been hiding a lot more than he let on. His suspicions are confirmed when Agent Fulbright (a suitably oily Jeff Goldblum) visits Fay and recruits her for an overseas mission to recover Henry’s “confessional” journals, which may contain national secrets.

Filmed with crisp visual composition and accompanied by a sleek soundtrack, the flick takes Fay deep into the world of international espionage where no one is who he seems to be. Can she trust Fulbright? Is Henry still alive, and is he involved with a sexy spy named Bebe (Elina Lowensohn)? Does the mysterious Juliet (Saffron Burrows) really work for the Israeli government? And who are all these other miscreants who keep trying to bump off players in this dangerous game?

Mr. Hartley likes to keep us guessing, and in the meantime, he keeps us chuckling along with the dark, dry humor he’s sprinkled into the script (his hallmark).

In the end, however, “Fay Grim” is a bit of blur. Pleasurable performances abound, particularly those by Miss Posey, the expertly expressive Miss Lowensohn and Mr. Goldblum. But the story itself feels a bit underbaked and overly ambitious — which is too bad, given how long Mr. Hartley’s had to cook up this one.

**1/2

TITLE: “Fay Grim”

RATING: R (for language, some violent scenes and sexuality)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Hal Hartley.

RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes

WEB SITE: www.faygrimfilm.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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