I had braces in Junior High. My mouth was too small for all of my teeth and so Dr. Weir had to pull four of my incisors to make room for a healthy smile. I was shot full of local and he got to work yanking those young teeth out. He told me to be certain to tell him if it ever hurt. So as he’s shoving his metal instruments around my mouth, I feel a twinge of something unpleasant. I tell him that it is indeed hurting, which he responded to be looking me in the eyes, giving me the most disdainful look I have ever seen, and saying “You’re too young to know the difference between pain and pressure.” I am older now and I have learned the difference between pain and pressure so you can believe me when I say that watching the new film Fay Grim was perhaps one of the most painful movie experiences I have ever had.

Where can one even start when it comes to talking about this film? This film was directed by Hal Hartley, who obviously believes that tilting the frame in half of his shots will make his movie look more indie and art-house but instead ends up as vertigo’s new best friend. It stars cadres of have-beens, never-will-bes, and sure-are-not-nows. The one shining exception is James Urbaniak, beloved star of indie film darling American Splendor, as the slightly deranged and utterly convincing brother of Fay Grim. Parker Posey puts forth a dismal performance as Fay Grim, seeking to act as the troubled, mysterious, and slightly off-base main character but coming off as an actor looking unsure, troubled, disconnected and wholly unconvincing. Jeff Goldblum looks even more robotic and pre-Alzheimer’s than ever.

As for the plot, the great stories of CIA intrigue and international deception went out with the late Eighties. If The Recruit could not bring back that genre, it is highly unlikely that a film which looks as though half of it was filmed in some grandmother’s basement will be able to either. The plot lacked even the slightest whiff of continuity and pivotal characters and items seemed to come and go without a hint of explanation or interest. Hartley tried to be too European in his film style and failed with heartbreaking efficiency.

Disconnected plots and obtuse characters do not make hit underground films. Good acting, good plot, or at least interesting scenes and dialog do that for films. Fay Grim finds itself woefully lacking any of the above in amounts substantial to notice. Regardless, it was an official selection of both SXSW and the Sundance Film Festival.

Don’t see this film when it comes out on May 18th. Go out and do something you will not be loathe to remember for the next few weeks.

Yet, if you desire more punishment, see this website. But don’t.

Nathaniel Jonet 

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