Fay Grim

 
Parker Posey spy satire won't interest kids.
  • Review Date: August 20, 2007
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 118 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Spies lie and cheat to get information; affiliations and loyalties change according to convenience; Fay's love for her son and Henry is true.

Violence

Lots of talk about espionage, nuclear missiles, torture, and war zones (mostly abstract); some fights and shoot-outs (which tend to be stylized, in slow- and stop-motion and close-up); bomb threat; spy threatens to shoot a 14-year-old boy; French cops assault a building like a SWAT team.

Sex

Ned receives a pornographic device in which he can view an orgy (it's never visible, but multiple viewers describe it, mentioning three participants and a goat); Fay says she read the "dirty parts" of Henry's confessions (no details); Ned is suspended for reportedly getting a blow job from two schoolgirls (again, no details); Fay appears in her tub while talking to her son (viewers see her from the neck up).

Language

Several uses of "f--k," plus other occasional language, like "s--t," "a--hole," "half-assed," and "hell."

Consumerism

Mention of Haagen-Dazs.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters (Fay, Henry, and Andre especially) smoke cigarettes and drink wine and liquor. Fay appears giddily drunk after drinking (off-screen) during a flight to Europe.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this dryly funny spy movie satire probably won't interest younger viewers (unless they're into conversations about aesthetics, morality, and recent global and economic history ...). A running joke touches on pornography, and a 14-year-old supposedly gets a blow job at school (nothing is shown). Violence is pretty minor (shooting and some fighting, a couple of bloody wounds and falls) and shot in a highly stylized manner with exaggerated handheld camerawork. Lots of smoking and some swearing (mostly "f--k").

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

Kids say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

What's the story?

Long estranged from Henry (Thomas Jay Ryan), Fay (Parker Posey) is increasingly worried that their 14-year-old son Ned (Liam Aiken) is becoming like his father. When he's expelled for misbehaving in school, she decides it's crucial to get her brother Simon (James Urbaniak) -- "the incarcerated garbage man-poet of Woodside, Queens" -- out of prison so that Ned can be influenced by a different father figure. To this end, she agrees to go along with a proposal by CIA Agent Fulbright (Jeff Goldblum) and his partner, young Fogg (Leo Fitzpatrick), who want her to pursue a missing volume of Henry's unpublished "confessions." The agents believe both that the work will reveal the locations of Israeli nuclear missile sites and that an array of nations (China, Germany, Belgium) are desperate to keep the intel secret. But Fay is concerned only with doing the right thing -- by Henry, Ned, and the various other agents she comes to know during her adventure.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

"For my sins," says CIA Agent Fulbright (Jeff Goldblum), "I was sent to the middle of nowhere." The screen then cuts to "Afghanistan 1989," where Fulbright's counterterrorist conniving is bound to be thwarted. It's hard to tell throughout FAY GRIM when -- or if -- Fulbright is ever telling the truth, but this flashback seems particularly cagey, as he's recalling the moment when the United States used a certain self-proclaimed Saudi to undermine Russian efforts in the region. Here, the Arab's name is Jallal Said Khan (Anatole Taubman), but his resemblance to Osama Bin Laden is undeniable. Such blatant name (or face) dropping makes Fay Grim seem more topical than it is. In fact, Hal Hartley's sequel to Henry Fool is less concerned with the details of contemporary spycraft and deception than with broader moral questions. And as untrustworthy and experienced as Agent Fulbright may be, he's no match for Fay (Parker Posey).

The plot gets increasingly intricate, with all kinds of agents and terrorists pretending to be someone else, but Fay remains steadfastly Fay. Fay isn't so naïve as to believe that she'll discover a "truth," but she does want to believe that her efforts aren't in vain. Meanwhile, goodhearted Simon and his earnest publisher, Angus (Chuck Montgomery), pursue Fay, deducing -- rightly, of course, -- that the CIA won't look out for her best interests. Fay Grim reinforces the spies' lack of faith through shadowy flashbacks, dead-ends, and persistently too-clever compositions. But it's not actually cynical. Incisive, funny, and often oddly affecting, the film proposes that international intrigues result from small minds grappling with gigantic problems. And Fay, so seemingly "grim" and even despairing at first, ends up a model of generosity and probing insight.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what this movie is satirizing. Are there certain spy movie conventions that it's spoofing? What are they? What makes something a satire? Are satires always funny? Families can also discuss how the movie's spies and terrorists behave similarly -- and how they're different.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 18, 2007
DVD release date:May 22, 2007
Cast:James Urbaniak, Jeff Goldblum, Parker Posey
Director:Hal Hartley
Studio:Magnolia Pictures
Genre:Drama
Run time:118 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:some language and sexuality.

This review of Fay Grim was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 14 years old Written bygrindhouse April 9, 2008
age 0+
 

Great movie

I love Parker Posey she is a great actress and this movie is fantastic really good spy movie with some funny parts if you like a good spy film that keeps you hooked until the end watch it.

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass