Fay Grim – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com


Hal Hartley


Parker Posey Fay Grim
Jeff Goldblum Agent Fulbright
Liam Aiken Ned
James Urbaniak Simon Grim
Saffron Burrows Juliet
Thomas Jay Ryan Henry Fool
Chuck Montgomery Angus James

DVD Release Date: May 22, 2007
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 118 Minutes

The Movie

Parker Posey has been in all sorts of roles throughout her career, from a vampire to a brace-wearing dog owner and tons in between. I’ve always found her to have this lovable quality about her that makes her characters stupid yet incredibly endearing. They are naive and quite ignorant, but always make you feel as if they are incredibly sweet and deserve your sympathy. She continues this tend while stepping back into the shoes of Fay Grim.

Fay is a single mother of a 14-year-old boy who is a bit of a troublemaker. Ned just can’t seem to stay out of trouble and ends up getting expelled from school. Fay’s biggest concern is that he will end up like his father Henry who has been gone for a long time. Henry boarded a plane and took off since he was wanted for manslaughter, treason, and a list of other charges. His accomplice Simon, Fay’s brother, was put behind bars for aiding and abetting. But all of a sudden, Henry is back in the news and back in Fay’s life.

Angus, Simon’s publisher, not only has a romantic interest in Fay but he wants something from her. He wants Henry’s notebooks. These notebooks contain some of the top secrets of the United States and could severely hinder any kind of security or relations the country has with other nations. All written in code and spread throughout the world, Angus thinks Fay would be able to get her hands on these notebooks since she was Henry’s wife. Well the CIA and many world leaders also want to get some looks at what is written in the notebooks and Fay is the key to them all.

The basic premise of the film is that Fay’s husband Henry is said to be alive and the CIA want him. Also terrorists and nationalists from Russia, Great Britain, Afghanistan, and a list of other countries a mile long. He is wanted for various crimes but also the most dangerous man in the entire world because of the knowledge he possesses. Fay sets out across the world trying to find her husband’s notebooks to get them back and save her family. But while she is being protected by the CIA, she doesn’t realize that they are at the same time using her to find Henry.

Hal Hartley delivers a masterful film in a sequel to his 1997 film Henry Fool. I have never seen that film nor have I even heard of it until receiving Fay Grim. If it is anything like this one, then Hartley has quickly become one of my favorite directors. Fay Grim starts out rather slow but then after about twenty minutes, it really gets moving. And if you’re not paying strict attention, it also will get extremely confusing. Fay can trust Simon, Angus, and her son Ned. That is it. Those are the only people in the film you can honestly determine whose side they are on. Everyone else switches sides so often or are merely playing the game so well, that you never know where anyone belongs.

Fay is a dimwitted woman who doesn’t even know how to pray without an instruction guide; let alone know what is going on in the world today. Some of the interactions she has Agent Fulbright are downright hilarious when they really shouldn’t be. There is one scene where he explains the entire history he has with Henry and the political implications it could have, ruining so many people. Fay responds with a nod, a pause, and then says, “That’s bad right?”

The film also throws in a great deal of subtle comedy that mirrors one of my favorite films, Clue. Mystery lurks throughout Fay Grim, but then as you are trying to figure out what will happen next, a joke is thrown in. Sometimes you’ll even find yourself laughing a few scenes later because you realize then how funny it actually was. Everything flows from one moment to the next weaving a great trail of mystery and adventure with a little comedy throw in to break up the seriousness. This was my first experience to any of Hartley’s work and if it is a sign of how his other films are, then I’m on my way out the door and heading to the store.

The Video

The film is projected in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen format and looks very good. This film is not about being all sunny and cheery, so don’t expect a lot of bright colors. The mood of it is drab and distraught so the atmosphere is always cloudy; the colors are dark which ultimately end up looking quite good all things considered.

The Audio

The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Sound and comes through alright. The dialogue can not always be heard too clearly and you’re going to find yourself turning up the volume on a consistent basis. The music isn’t very intense so you won’t have to do the annoying “turn up for talking, turn down for music” throughout, but the low volume of some discussions is very noticeable.

Special Features

Making Of Fay Grim: Or How Do You Spell Espionage? – This is your basic “making of” segment but the cast and director dwell more on how they were actually able to make a sequel to Henry Fool. A lot of the cast really had no idea there ever would be a second one or how it could be done, but Hal Hartley found a way. A little short but it’s still an interesting look at their thoughts behind the two films coming together.

Higher Definition: Fay Grim Episode – A full 30-minute episode of the show Higher Definition hosted by critic Robert Wilonsky. The critic simply talks about the film and how it is the sequel to Henry Fool. Most of the cast including Posey, Goldblum, and Thomas Jay Ryan, along with Hartley, give interviews with their thoughts on the film and what it’s all about.

Deleted Scenes – Two deleted scenes that wouldn’t have done anything to enhance the film. Guess with the film already close to two hours though, another eight minutes might be too much. Kind of a shame really because one of the scenes is quite amusing watching Fay try to learn how to pray properly.

Hal Hartley’s Fay Grim Trailer

TrailersDiggers, MaxedOut, and The Prisoner: Or How I Planned To Kill Tony Blair

The Inside Pulse

There aren’t many films I find worthy of a perfect rating, and with the amount of crap I have had to review in the past, you’d think I was maybe a harsh rater. But Fay Grim truly delivers everything that makes a film great. The actors, from the main characters to the bit parts, gave flawless performances. The story kept me 100% focused and entertained without getting monotonous. And Hartley’s direction is absolutely superb. The special features don’t deliver much, but are quite entertaining for as few of them that there are. If you’ve never seen Henry Fool, grab it at the same time you pick up your copy of this DVD. Might as well start at the beginning and go all the way through.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Fay Grim
(OUT OF 10)