May 15, 2007

Fay Grim.

Fay Grim "The Long Island–bred [Hal] Hartley is trying to shake up his aesthetic - shake it up without forsaking his gift for deadpan comedy and loopy little playlets in which misfits reach out clumsily from their solipsistic bubbles," writes David Edelstein in New York. "In Fay Grim, he deposits the characters he has already created (and the actors he adores) into an up-to-the-minute, labyrinthine paranoid-conspiracy thriller like Syriana, so that those solipsistic bubbles are burst by the brutality of modern geopolitics. It's a rich idea - a Hartley-esque variation on the theme of American Innocents Abroad. And it works superbly until - well, Grim's the word."

"Hartley didn't merely direct this film," notes Anthony Lane in the New Yorker. "He also wrote, edited, and co-produced it, and apparently tried to cram into it everything that has consumed or appalled him in the years since Henry Fool.... If the movie kept pace with Fay's bafflement, all might have been well, and I was happy to hear Jeff Goldblum reel off reams of political paranoia at dazzling speed, like a court official in a Gilbert and Sullivan song. What happens, though, and what lures the film into disaster, is that Hartley lets slip his sense of humor (always his strongest asset) and begins to believe his own plot."

"[T]his is Parker Posey's film, and she is at her ironically affected best here, delivering a comically understated performance astute enough to make us not only laugh at but root for her," writes Robert Avila at SF360. "Nonetheless, she never quite touches the extremes of vulnerability or passion glimpsed in the volatile Fay of yesteryear." Also: The second part of Robert Avila's interview with Hartley.

For the Los Angeles Times, Choire Sicha talks with Hartley about Berlin, Terrence Malick and being middle-aged.

IndieWIRE interviews Hartley and, at the Reeler, Chris Willard reports on Hartley's recent Q&A accompanying a double feature of Fool and Grim.

Update: "For perhaps 40 minutes, Fay Grim actually sort of works as a comic thriller, albeit more amusing than funny," writes J Hoberman. "Then things change. With all manner of backstories and flashbacks jamming the road, the Posey-mobile starts to swerve and sputter and finally blows a tire (in Istanbul no less)." As a bonus, The Wendell Baker Story, an "amiable time-waster," is reviewed on the same page (dots are connected in the opening paragraphs).

Update, 5/16: Nick Dawson interviews Hartley for Filmmaker.

Updates, 5/17: Ray Pride finds it "as misunderstood (and darkly subversive) as the deepest runnels of American foreign policy. A ton of reviewers hate the fact that Hartley's unexpected return to form begins as a comedy and matures into something angrier and much, much less than hopeful.... This is dastardly stuff, with lots of deadpan jokes, nicely embroidered if difficult to follow paranoia, and intermittent beauty."

"Posey commands Fay Grim so absolutely that it doesn’t at first seem to be a Hal Hartley movie," writes Armond White in the New York Press. "Posey makes the character believable, irresistible. She deserves a more accurate name, say, Saucy Force."

Updates, 5/18: "[D]elightfully ambitious," declares Michelle Orange at the Reeler. "It's a strange viewing experience, as you get the feeling early on that this sum vs parts fight will be one to the death, and yet no clear winner will emerge. Hartley has chosen the hallmark of a great remake - reinvention - in approaching the concept of the sequel, for better and for worse."

"Too light-headed to qualify as satire, too poker-faced to register as comedy, Fay Grim belongs in its own stylistic niche: the Hal Hartley film," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times, adding that it "gets so carried away with the intricacies of its plot that it gets lost in its own excessive cleverness. In the decade since Henry Fool, it implies, fear has driven the United States stark raving mad."

"Like many sui generis filmmakers - Atom Egoyan is another recent example - Hartley more or less exhausted his creative reserves after five or six similar-yet-different movies, and has been searching for rejuvenation ever since," writes Mike D'Angelo for Nerve. "He's still flailing, but you can't help but admire the attempt."

The San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle finds Fay Grim "reasonably entertaining, scene by scene, and despite a script that's almost Ionesco-like in its absurdity, [Hartley] keeps the picture afloat, maintaining viewer interest for the full running length of nearly two hours."

"In some ways, Fay Grim seems exactly the kind of thing we tend to praise - a personal, uncompromising movie by an outsider making the kind of picture that he wants to make," writes Elbert Ventura at Reverse Shot. "And if movies were judged by only the convictions behind them, then Fay Grim would be an unqualified success, instead of the forlorn reminder of past relevance that it is."

Bookmark and Share

Posted by dwhudson at May 15, 2007 1:45 AM


The distributor is dumping it. Although it played to good reviews and audience response at the Portland International Film Festival, it won't be opening here.

Posted by: Shawn Levy at May 15, 2007 7:12 AM

there has been alot of buzz about Fay Grim which is why I pre-ordered the dvd...for a decent price i guess at i hope i am not disappointed.

Posted by: Rubi at May 15, 2007 7:56 AM

It's fun, really. Hartley lite, but in a good way. Not great but fun. I don't know if they're dumping it per se as much as doing a "day and date" small theatrical + DVD release as they did with Bubble and I believe Hartley's last film. It really does deserve a longer theatrical run though. i think it'll have a decent audience on DVD.

Posted by: Craig P at May 17, 2007 4:42 PM