In 1997, Hal Hartley put out a film called Henry Fool. It was the story of an introvertish garbage man Simon who makes friends with Henry Fool, a witty but talent-less novelist. Simon ascends to be a great poet while Henry finds the bottomless pit of alcoholic brew. However, the plot turns around and Simon helps Henry to flee the country since he has a criminal past. The movie did seem to hint at a sequel but didn’t see one until 10 years later. Fay Grim tries to pick up where Henry Fool left off. It includes many of the same cast of characters.
Parker Posey returns as Fay Grim, the wife of Henry Fool (she took back her maiden name after his death). She becomes the focus for this movie. Donning a leather coat with fake pockets, she goes around Europe and the Middle East in search of Henry’s missing notebooks. These notebooks apparently contain some government secrets that lead to a game of deadly espionage. Back at home, Simon Grim (played by James Urbaniak) is serving a prison term for keeping his mouth shut regarding Henry Fool’s escape from the country. Ned (played by Liam Aiken)(Fay’s 14 year old son) and Angus James (played by Chuck Montgomery)(Simon’s publisher) also return as important characters for the sequel. However, new characters are on foot here too. The most important is the role of Agent Fulbright (played by Jeff Goldblum). Jeff as Fulbright does an excellent job of being the main opposition of the film as he is trying to investigate the notebooks and seeing if he can convince Fay to do his dirty work for him.
The first film felt like a straight up off-beat drama that was fairly simplistic but intriguing. The second film adds spy games and espionage and is delightfully quirky at times. But also just confusing and odd at other ones. It’s half comedy (but very dry) and half serious spy thriller. You find yourself laughing at certain moments but not entirely sure you are supposed to or not. It is very well acted by all of the participants, but in the same breath it seems like they aren’t being all that serious either. But maybe they aren’t supposed too? This is one of those movies that you don’t start enjoying until you are halfway through the flic. In addition, the movie uses what is known as Dutch Angle, typically reserved for thrillers and horror movies. It works, but can make the situation more confusing at times.
Film is shot in a beautiful 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Parker Posey looks fantastic and so does the rest of the characters. The film, despite being shot at a weird angle looks great in action and dialog scenes. The scenery helps to bring the viewer in and will keep the audience interested. Everything is sharp and there is honestly no complaints to be had.
Audio is provided in 5.1 (2.0 mix also available) Dolby Digital. First, the soundtrack is awesome. The music really helps to keep the audience entertained and glued to the
action onscreen. However, as far as surrounds work it primarily sits in the center channel. There are a few action sequences that use the rights and lefts but for a movie that is half spy thriller; it seems a little missing on that part. Subtitles are also provided in Spanish (English should have also been provided due to some accents used, but the parts are well spoken and should only be a light issue)
Automatic Trailers – Diggers, Maxed Out, The Prisoner or How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair, HD Net. Maxed Out and the Prisoner… I felt were out of place given the actual feature presentation.
Making of Fay Grim (16:39): A good behind the scenes look at Fay Grim with comments from most of the cast and the director Hal Hartley.
Higher Definition: Fay Grim Episode (27:53): Higher Definition is a HDNet show with film critic Robert Wilonsky who has a strange fascination with calling Fay Grim the Empire Strikes Back to Henry Fool. Woah there sunshine. ESB is arguably the best sequel of all time; lets stop the spin piece and actually give us some good information. He then does do some elaboration and speaks with much of the cast. Like the movie, a strange & quirky piece.
Deleted Scenes (1:34): Two deleted scenes that were pretty funny but really had no place in the movie.
Hal Hartley’s Fay Grim Trailer (2:05): I just love how certain directors have to announce its their film. And their trailer. Cause we know forty other people released trailers to this movie and we wouldn’t want anybody confusing them.
Fay Grim is actually a sequel you can watch without seeing the first film. (However, a lot is gained by watching the first film too) This is in large due to the fact that the movie is a departure from the first flic. It’s half comedy and half spy flic but blends together in a decent way that is quite entertaining. The actors and actresses are very strong and will probably make a few more Parker Posey fans due to her impressive performance. The dvd is well produced including sharp picture and decent audio. The extras are a bit on the promo side of things when they shouldn’t be. A hardy but cautious recommendation of this movie. You’ll like it, but wonder if it could have polished just a little bit. It also does leave room possibly for a third movie (which would probably center on the son Ned), but if they do decide to make it I would recommend not waiting 10 years for that one. (I would suggest 3-4, when it’s Ned’s 18th birthday). So please enjoy Parker’s leather coat, Jeff’s sarcasm and a very strange device that has a big caboose and a goat.