1997's Henry Fool -- a prescient look at technology's rapidly invasive impact on daily life -- stands as wonderfully obtuse filmmaker Hal Hartley's last great success, thus it should come as no surprise that Fay Grim is a look back.
Yes, it's the same Fay (Parker Posey) who was Henry's wife, the same Fay whose post-Henry life -- he's been missing for seven years -- has been marked by their 14-year-old son's (Liam Aiken) troubles at school and the jailing of her brother, the acclaimed avant-garde poet Simon (James Urbaniak). After a reintroduction to the main players, Hartley dives headlong into a convoluted espionage story that finds Fay scrambling about in Paris and Istanbul in search of Henry's precious diaries, or "confessions," as he called them. A variety of nefarious "agents" come at her from every direction, including a CIA man (Jeff Goldblum) who might or might not have her best interests at heart. At one point, Fay confesses that "the whole world is a mess," a claim that could just as easily be said of Hartley's latest endeavor. Yet the old magic is there in fits and spurts, a sign that the once-vital director might not be done yet. (Jason Gargano) Grade: C+