What do you do when you're a single mom whose son is about to be expelled from school and whose brother is locked away for aiding your fugitive husband? Such is Fay Grim's tricky situation at the onset of the film that bears her name. Hal Hartley's sequel to 1997's Henry Fool (see I'm Staying Home, this page) Fay Grim picks up the story 10 years later: Fay is nearing the end of her rope, constantly reminded of her husband's notoriety and worried about how his absence is affecting the behavior of their son.
Enter the wonderfully charming Jeff Goldblum as a CIA agent who approaches Fay to enlist her help in retrieving her husband's notebooks. Cutting a deal that involves Fay's brother being released from jail, Fay is thrown into the world of international espionage—where no one can be trusted, and each encounter is one elaborate con after another. (It's kinda like The Good Shepherd, but actually good, and funny, and not so boring, or hard to follow.)
If this all sounds wacky and off the wall, that's because it is. But it's also tender, and delivers a hilarious performance from Parker Posey as Fay, in her clueless yet determined journey to find the notebooks, her husband, and a better life for herself, her brother, and her son. Usually when movies are difficult to categorize, it means they're spread too thin—but Fay Grim succeeds in offering up humor so dry it's like a bucket of sand, while simultaneously being an engaging story of international spy games and terrorism. And, oh yeah, did I mention Jeff Goldblum is in it? What else do you need?