Picking up 10 years since 1997’s Henry Fool we see that struggling writer Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan) has fled the country and is presumably dead leaving his estranged wife Fay Grim (Parker Posey) to fend for herself. She is now using her maiden name trying to live a normal life as a single mother. Fay’s poet laureate brother Simon (James Urbaniak) is in jail for aiding and abetting Henry while his publisher (Chuck Montgomery) is putting the moves on Fay. But then the CIA shows up on Fay’s doorstep with suspicions Henry may still alive and believe the clues to his whereabouts may be in his diaries. Agent Fulbright (Jeff Goldblum) sends Fay on a spy mission to obtain said diaries and things get further complicated as more quirky characters weave in and out of Fay's journey. It might be wise to rent Henry Fool before seeing Fay Grim just so you can remind yourself about these characters and have a better understanding. Everyone is being idiosyncratic on purpose but not in an unnatural way because the characters aren't too far off from the performers' distinct personalities. Posey is naturally off kilter overwhelmed by her surroundings whether as a character in a movie or an actor navigating red carpets and press junkets. As a woman left in the lurch by her husband and thrust into international espionage she’s perfect. Goldblum speaks with his usual frazzled authority. The other lesser known personalities fill their roles effectively as well. Urbaniak is just socially awkward enough you can see why he'd be the chump but smart enough to be ultimately helpful. Montgomery is an executive type who relishes his involvement in the intrigue. As Fay's son Liam Aiken plays the loner kid not quite Goth but a disaffected rebel nonetheless. Fay also encounters plenty of European spy types who bring a certain level of campiness to the espionage genre. You might feel left out if you haven't seen Henry Fool. They manage to fill in the Henry Fool backstory without a lot of exposition but there is definitely something missing. Then again so what if it might all be a little confusing? Figuring out the details is not important it’s the ride that counts. Being ultimately quirky himself indie director Hal Hartley manages to keep the pace moving throughout Fay Grim and all of the elements seem to tie in. The breezy dialogue is a treat. And for being an international adventure on a budget the film never feels cheap. Presenting chases and gunfights as a series of still shots may avoid actually staging elaborate action sequences but it's also more interesting to watch than the same old shoot 'em ups. Nobody is going to out-Woo John Woo so having this device is better. At two hours it does get a bit overwhelming to keep up but there are worse places to be stuck for 120 minutes.
Robert "Benjamin" Dickerson longtime figure on Atlanta's underground music scene blended punk rock country and blues as frontman for Smoke and other bands. Filmmakers Jem Cohen and Peter Sillen chronicle the last nine years of his life from Smoke's emotionally charged performances and his work with idol Patti Smith to his 1999 death from AIDS.
Benjamin quietly commands attention in a series of intimate poignant and remarkably open interviews discussing his childhood as a country boy in drag his punk-rock beginnings life as a self-confessed speed freak and his thoughts on death and dying. Through it all a quirky ironic sense of humor shows through ("I just love cops at shows"). In candid shots he serves as a window into the underground music scene and as an observer of life in the shadow of Cabbagetown's long-shuttered cotton mills where "little kids ... go to jail really young whose parents all do inhalants."
The movie opens with a beautifully composed black and white montage set to Benjamin's distinctly Southern rasp. The rest of the 80-minute docupic delivers on the sensory expectations that the opening sets up interleaving interviews candid moments and environmental shots to develop an intimate portrait of the subject. However it is a portrait so alluring that one leaves with only the vaguest sense of the events and chronology behind the film.