Dry but not humorous and absurd without being fun, Hal Hartley’s latest, Fay Grim, is a crushing disappointment. The fact that it’s probably an hour too long is only the beginning of its problems.
Fay Grim is the sequel to 1997’s Henry Fool, the story of Queens garbage man Simon Grim (James Urbaniak), and how the arrival of the film’s epononymous hero (Thomas Jay Ryan), a curmudgeonly Renaissance-cum-garbage man, inspires him to write The Great American Poem. The film ends with Henry enlisting Simon’s help to flee the country. Fay Grim picks up exactly where Henry Fool left off, as Henry’s wife, Simon’s sister Fay (Parker Posey), discovers that her husband may have been far more than the roguish, would-be novelist he purported to be. Instead, it turns out that Henry led a life of international intrigue. Without going into the details—which turn out to be indescribably labyrinthine and bizarre—Fay’s discovery leads her into a shadowy world of espionage.
The first 30 odd minutes show signs of promise: Hartley’s deadpan dialogue and intriguing sound design suggest a fresh new take on the spy spoof film. Halfway through, however, Hartley loses his way. While I appreciate the director’s attempt to break new ground—and diehard Hartley heads will no doubt fawn—Fay Grim is, well, very grim indeed.