What seemingly starts out as just another comical CIA/spy intrigue with light overtones and stereotypic roles, becomes quite another matter, a deeply engrossing one, less than twenty minutes deep. This storyline, written by the film’s director, Hal Hartley, has the depth of a Graham Greene novel and a grasp of realities inherent to the community of intelligence gathering far in excess of any blockbuster you’ll ever see.
Although camera work and scene arrangements are more typical to a “B” film, this illusion is quickly dispensed when the viewer begins to enjoy the quality of the cast and the costly settings that run throughout. Surely some budget constraints were in mind, but this might be expected in a movie that avoids the cookie cutting formulations of blockbusters and adventures into untapped territory some might even call virginal. Instead of “American and/or English goody goodies” against the “mean old rotten terrorists” we have the rottenness pretty evenly distributed around. And decent loyalties are not that easily, if at all, determined.
In the center is Fay Grim, played by the lovely Parker Posey, a woman caught between her own world of mother/housewife and that of a woman forced into compliance with the international intrigues of underground covert activities. One in which any criminal act becomes pardonable when represented as expedient. In clinging to her values and unwavering concerns for others, will her common sense and quick study mind be adequate to win survival for her and those she loves?
Jeff Goldblum is the CIA agent-in-charge, Fulbright, hell-bent on using Fay to draw out double agents and plants with a series of diary confessions attributed to a deep operative. Before it’s over the mess becomes a whole scale purge of internal corruption on all sides. Ultimately, however, unintended. (Chuckle, chuckle.) Usually such complexity is not held together well; here it is. Just use pause if you have to leave the room momentarily.
The most interesting aspect of the movie is found in the development of Fay Grim as demands take her from struggling suburbia-in-decline, to having to stay steps ahead of those who wish to place her in dangerous and compromising situations as a pawn. The supporting role of her son, played by Liam Aiken and her brother, by James Urbaniak, are remarkably portrayed and we are gratified that Mr. Goldblum leaves off his penchant for significant pauses that aren’t significant.
If you don’t expect fifteen minute car chases and more than the occasional gun battle, opting for more mental challenge than special effects, this is your kind of movie.
A graphic love scene, but no nudity. Language not too graphic for children. It just clouds some mindsets for those too righteous about causes. Pretty well.