Metascore
52

Mixed or average reviews - based on 26 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 26
  2. Negative: 0 out of 26
  1. 83
    Plotwise, the film seems actually designed to repel logic, almost a parody of a spy film. But it's played with such verve and dash and confident flair that you'll have a grand time.
  2. You won't see another film like Fay Grim this year, and we should give Hartley credit for making it work on his own terms.
  3. 75
    Clever, fast-paced and surprisingly moving.
  4. 70
    A sophisticated, sometimes intentionally silly spy thriller of international intrigue, Fay Grim charts the history of American foreign policy while commenting on current global complications with wink and a nudge.
  5. 67
    There's no other woman acting today that even remotely resembles Parker Posey. For that matter, there's never been anyone quite like her that I can think of. She has the dynamite improvisational instincts of a born grifter who wandered too far from one con and ended up in another – acting – and her tricky-risky game of onscreen three-card monte is, again and again, a jewel in indie filmmaking's oft-tattered crown.
  6. Hartley is very adept with actors, though – or at least some of them. Posey, for her part, displays a pert quizzical quality that's very charming and very funny. And Goldblum is tailor-made for Hartley's minimalist patter.
  7. Strikes me as something of an elaborate mistake, a wasted opportunity and a script Hartley should have discarded. But I liked it anyway.
  8. While Fay Grim is too uneven to win Hartley many converts, it is laced with enough intelligence and wit to remind longtime fans why they were drawn to his unique vision in the first place.
  9. It's not that Fay Grim isn't amusing. It is, in that deadpan, skewed way that indie auteur Hartley's pics always are. But there's not much else going on here.
  10. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    63
    The movie opens with wit and dash, then devolves into a rather generic spy thriller.
  11. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    63
    Fay Grim falls victim to its own worried hyperactivity; it shuts you out with chattery paranoia. Hartley wants us to see the big picture, but he forgets we need artists like him to bring it into focus.
  12. It's a rich idea -- a Hartley-esque variation on the theme of American Innocents Abroad. And it works superbly until -- well, Grim's the word.
  13. Too hip to play it straight and too cool to resort to an actual story, Hartley turns the whole rambling spy game into a puzzle box where every certainty is thrown into doubt, every character has a hidden motive, and every clue is contradicted.
  14. 58
    Sadly, there's a thin line between goofing irreverently on the maddeningly convoluted nature of spy thrillers and actually being a muddled mess, and Fay Grim crosses it constantly during its deadly second hour.
  15. Hartley's kooky cosmopolitan caper can never be accused of slumming, but the shift from dry, offbeat wit to politically charged drama is a little jarring, to say the least; it's a bit like taking in Woody Allen's "Annie Hall" and having it morph mid-way through into "Shadows and Fog."
  16. 50
    The result is that we feel deliberately distanced from the film. It is not so much an exercise in style as an exercise in search of a style. The story doesn't involve us because we can't follow it, and we doubt if the characters can, either.
  17. 50
    Fay Grim is like watching stoners playing Risk and Clue at the same time.
  18. In most every frame, Hartley takes pains to tilt his camera at odd angles – in other words, he's gone literally off-kilter, and it's just off-putting. What's worse, a further hallmark of the Hartley canon, his self-reflexivity, has begun to smack of self-promotion.
  19. Reviewed by: Jeremy Mathews
    50
    Fans of "Henry Fool" in particular, however, may dislike the complete disregard for the characters of the original film. But the most fervent of Hartley followers can praise the film as a brilliant deconstruction of the tacked-on cinematic sequel.
  20. Too light-headed to qualify as satire, too poker-faced to register as comedy, Fay Grim belongs in its own stylistic niche: the Hal Hartley film.
  21. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    50
    A strange international odyssey that becomes more complicated and loony by the moment. Some viewers will undoubtedly tune out early, others will follow as far as they can -- and a privileged few might make it all the way.
  22. The involved backstory and Hartley's own generic music both prove burdensome; the main attraction is the cast's amusing way of handling Hartley's mannerist dialogue and conceits.
  23. The faux espionage plot, with its winks at terrorism, is really just a convoluted plea for the relevance of precious indie artistes (i.e., Hal Hartley).
  24. 40
    As "Henry Fool's" belated sequel, Fay Grim seems nearly an act of desperation.
  25. The trouble is, this is Hartley all over again. What seemed cutting edge and sharp in the 1990s -- the smart-alecky references to obscure filmmakers (Werner Herzog, Andrei Konchalovsky), the self-mocking tone in the actors' voices, the overall sense that this movie is subverting itself -- feels rehashed and old.
  26. 40
    What happens, though, and what lures the film into disaster, is that Hartley lets slip his sense of humor (always his strongest asset) and begins to believe his own plot.

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