Wonder what happened to Henry Fool and his clan? Now you know.
Fay Grim is the sequel to writer/director Hal Hartley's critically acclaimed 1998 satiric dramedy, Henry Fool. It's years later in the characters' lives. Fay Grim (Parker Posey) is now a single mom living in Queens with her 14-year-old son, Ned (Liam Aiken), whom she fears will become like his father, Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan). Her brother, the famous poet Simon Grim (James Urbaniak), is now in jail for aiding Henry's escape from the country. But when CIA agent Fulbright (Jeff Goldblum) approaches Fay and tells her Henry might not have been the man she thought he was, she winds up heading to Europe and getting involved in a game of international espionage.
I will be the first to admit: I had not seen a Hal Hartley film before screening Fay Grim. Not even Henry Fool. To his Hartley's credit, even though Fay Grim is a sequel, you don't actually need to have seen Henry Fool to follow what is going on. He does a great job of grounding you in the family's mythology without boring you to death with exposition. If anything, the exposition that is delivered is done so tongue in cheek as if to make fun of heavy-handed examples of that in other, lesser movies.
Hartley is lovably art-house in his approach--framing his shots at odd angles and creating an almost absurdist universe for his characters. Unfortunately, as much as I liked his quirky technique, I found the story of Fay Grim, well, boring, which shouldn't be the case when she is traipsing about Europe trying to outsmart various international intelligence operations.
Hartley's actors love working with him, and they were unquestionably devoted to the unique world he wanted to create. But without a good quality story, all the eccentricity is just window dressing. Unless you've spent the last decade lying awake nights wondering what happened to the Grim/Fool clan, I'm sorry to say I'd skip this one.