Fay Grim

Director: Hal Hartley
Screenwriters: Hal Hartley

Institute History

  • 2007 Sundance Film Festival


Eight years have passed since the infamous Henry Fool fled the country, abandoning his wife, Fay Grim, and their son, Ned. Played to Hartley-esque perfection by Parker Posey, Fay is falling to pieces. Ned is being expelled from school, and Fay's brother, Simon (James Urbaniak), the reviled garbageman/poet, is serving a 10-year sentence for aiding Henry's escape. Simon now believes that Henry's eight-volume opus, Confession, is not the self-indulgent, literary drivel he supposed but a coded report on the clandestine activities of several spy organizations. Enter CIA agent Fulbright (Jeff Goldblum), who strikes a bargain with Fay that springs Simon from jail and sends her to Paris to retrieve two volumes of Henry's Confession. But what do spies and terrorists want with it anyway?

Hal Hartley's smartest, funniest film in many years, Fay Grim, one is tempted to say, picks up where Henry Fool leaves off. But in one of its many creative flourishes, Grim totally upends the Fool story and returns to the kind of playful intrigues reminiscent of Simple Men. Littered with Hartley's characteristic cadences and signature tone, Fay Grim simply asks, can a neurotic mom from Queens (with help from a friendly stewardess/part-time topless dancer) elude spy agencies and Afghan terrorists before her ex-husband, who isn't dead, is killed over eight volumes of illogical, pedantic gibberish?

— John Nein

Screening Details

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