The best casting this year is Parker Posey in "Fay Grim," about a mom who gets involved in international espionage, meandering in and out of harm's way at the center of a race for secret documents that completely mystifies her. The result is something like "The Bourne Identity" meets Buster Keaton, and Posey plays it with the deadpan grace fans love her for.
"Fay Grim," a somewhat subtle satire of political thrillers, is a sequel. Kind of. Ten years ago the director, Hal Hartley, made a little-seen indie called "Henry Fool." The plot of that previous film doesn't factor much here, except that its literary-minded plot has now exploded into an outrageous adventure story. In that film, Fay was married to Henry (Thomas Jay Ryan), a failed poet who fled the country under mysterious circumstances with the help of Fay's brother Simon <(James Urbaniak), a garbage man who has surprisingly thrilled the country with his own volume of verse.
In "Fay," Simon is in prison for helping Henry escape, and dour Fay is trying to raise her and Henry's son (Liam Aiken) when a knock on the door by a CIA agent (Jeff Goldblum) informs her that fat, drunken Henry is still alive and wanted for transporting state secrets coded into his rambling manifesto. Fay leaves for Europe, where she dips and dodges hit men, terrorists, former KGB and every other pulp character the director can throw at her.
After a string of misfires, director Hartley has finally made a not-so-serious tragicomedy that's as entertaining as it is entertained by itself. The thing that really links "Fay Grim" with "Henry Fool" and many lesser Hartley films in between is a satiric love of the preposterous. Pitting bookish library types against the ruthless gunmen and terse dialogue of garden-variety popcorn cinema could have ended up completely silly. Here it's an excellent antidote to summer blockbuster seriousness. (R)
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