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Fay Grim

Fay Grim

Rated R, 118 min. Directed by Hal Hartley. Starring Parker Posey, Jeff Goldblum, James Urbaniak, Saffron Burrows, Liam Aiken, Thomas Jay Ryan, Chuck Montgomery, Elina Löwensohn.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 18, 2007

There's no other woman acting today that even remotely resembles Parker Posey. For that matter, there's never been anyone quite like her that I can think of. She has the dynamite improvisational instincts of a born grifter who wandered too far from one con and ended up in another – acting – and her tricky-risky game of onscreen three-card monte is, again and again, a jewel in indie filmmaking's oft-tattered crown. She's the best reason to see this wild, borderline screwball sequel to Hal Hartley's 1998 Henry Fool, in which Posey played Fay, a firecracker nymphomaniac married to a slouchy, genius writer – the Fool of the title (Ryan). It helps matters if you've seen the earlier film, but Fay Grim has a lunatic charm all its own, with nearly all of Henry Fool's cast returning, including the sublimely self-contained Urbaniak, as Fay's brother, Simon Grim, a former garbageman whose life-changing encounter with Fool in Fool resulted in no small epiphany, one for which he is currently in prison, having switched identities with his literary mentor (there was a murder, of sorts), while the real Fool's gone on the lam for the past decade. Fay, a single mother to a smart, tenuous little chip off the old man named Ned (and here Lemony Snicket's 17-year-old Aiken very nearly runs away with the film's emotional center), is just looking to connect … in Posey's lip-gnawing, brassy way. Then the FBI appears in the form of Goldblum, first to announce the death of Henry, then to embroil Fay in what can only be accurately called "international intrigue." There are duplicitous, bizarre schemes involving not Fay but the missing (or dead?) Fool, but he's really just a loudmouth MacGuffin around which orbits Posey's Fay, eclipsing everyone she encounters, including Burrows as a double agent and Nadja's Löwensohn as Henry's Euro-squeeze. If it sounds like a lot to swallow, it is; Goldblum doesn't so much devour the scenery as molest it, his lanky Semitic frame and Cronenberg eyes making easy sport of a character whose clownish authority plays like one of Kurt Weill's earnest oddball strays. Hartley's film doesn't match up to the cockamamy punch of its predecessor, but it's enough to see Posey run riot through the director's skewed visions. Even in a hail of gunfire, she makes you grin, helplessly.
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