Fay Grim movie poster
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Fay Grim movie poster

Fay Grim Movie Review

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The DVD cover of Fay Grim shows Parker Posey, Jeff Goldblum, a bunch of other lesser-known actors and a quote from John Nein at the Sundance Film Festival that says, "Hal Hartley's smartest, funniest film in years." Needless to say, I was expecting an indie comedy. Never mind that the cover also shows Saffron Burrows holding a gun.

And who is Hal Hartley? How can I know if this is his smartest, funniest film in years if I have never seen any of his others movies, let alone heard of any of them (or him). Regardless, I didn't find Fay Grim all too funny, but I did find it smart, clever and quite entertaining. It is perhaps funny in its off-the-wall, meandering plot of a spy story, but laugh-out-loud funny it is not. But that's okay.

The brilliant Hal Hartley guides his film from one phase to the next, seemingly carelessly but ultimately specifically twisting his plot toward the end game. There are no huge twists in Fay Grim, but instead countless of small ones, as just about every scene offers something new to this absurd writer-turned-spy-turned-fugitive-turned-terrorist comedy-thriller. Maybe I should explain what the movie is about.

Posey stars the title character, the wife of a novelist fugitive who has fled the country. Amidst the advances of her husband's ex-publisher and the hounding of FBI agents (or were they CIA?), Fay learns that her husband was perhaps working for the government as a spy and that some of his missing memoirs are wanted by the United States, not to mention other countries and a terrorist network. As Fay gets closer to the truth, she finds herself more and more involved in scheming sides.

Fay Grim is a fun, twisty little thriller. It has a few laughs here and there, but overall the movie's comedy comes from the realistic absurdity of the plot. Hartley just keeps digging the plot deeper and deeper with every step, taking his characters on a wild ride which includes espionage, killings, terrorists and more. Posey's character is just stuck in the middle of it all, yet gradually takes a stronger and stronger hand until the rather-good finale. Those who like off-the-wall thrillers like The Zero Effect and The Spanish Prisoner should find Fay Grim to be an enjoyable little film.

Posey and everyone else do excellent jobs in their respective roles, though Hartley's style of writing certainly won't win them any awards. His writing isn't bad by any means and is actually quite good, but to serve the story, every line is very crisp and to-the-point, almost abrupt in delivery. This writing also adds an edge to the movie, sort of like it did for David Mamet's Spartan. Still, despite of this and thanks to this, this is one of Posey's best performances in years.

Fay Grim is a film worth watching for those who like mystery-thrillers and more subtle laughs. It isn't an amazing film, but it knows what it is and holds true to it, from beginning to end (what that is I'm not quite sure). Good acting, good writing and an entertaining, twisting plot make Fay Grim a surprisingly fun movie. I may just have to see what else Hal Hartley has done...

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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