Fay Grim (2006)
Parker Posey, Jeff Goldblum, James Urbaniak, Thomas Jay Ryan. Writer-Director: Hal Hartley.This is ostensibly a sequel to Hartley’s 1997 Henry Fool, but it is not necessary to have seen the earlier film. This one stands as a brilliant parody of international espionage thrillers, not the chase-and-explosion James Bond type, but the tricky, intellectual ones, like Syriana, The Good Shepherd, Bourne Identity, Manchurian Candidate, and the Le Carre thrillers like Tailor of Panama and Constant Gardener. Posey is an ordinary, single, suburban mom until CIA agent Goldblum tells her that her missing husband (Ryan) is not really dead, but a rogue, ex-CIA terrorist on the lam. The CIA needs his prison notebooks, which supposedly encode embarrassing state secrets, if not specifications for nuclear weapons. She agrees to help in exchange for releasing her poet brother (Urbaniak) from jail. International travel, assassins, double-crosses, murders and secret handoffs follow, but the send-up is subtle and ironic. There are a few goofy slapstick bits but this is no Austin Powers. Each scene is so well directed, acted, scripted and photographed, it is completely absorbing and believable, even if, after it is over, you realize it doesn’t make any sense (as is often the case in spy movies). There is real “spy” tension in each scene, even when characters say things that upon a moment’s reflection, are obviously self-parodies, allusions to other films, or self-referential jokes. Even the music is funny. I loved every minute of this movie’s 2.5 hours and never wanted it to end. On a larger view, the film satirizes Americans’ ignorance of world affairs, the chaos of post-cold war international relations, and the self-serving cynicism of intergovernmental espionage. There is an implied yearning for the “Spy Who Came In From The Cold” era. Goldblum says with furrowed brow, “Yes, I think Fay has gone over to the other side.” Her young son (Liam Aiken) asks pointedly, “The other side of what?” I haven’t seen Henry Fool, but I will, even though Fay Grim is a perfect multilayered comedy on its own.