“Fay Grim” and “Waitress”

During hours when I couldn’t write over the last couple of weeks, I managed to wedge in two films…


Fay Grim

‘Tis the summer of sequels. But forget Spidey, Captain Jack, and Jason Bourne… I know what you’ve REALLY been waiting to see. The follow-up to Henry Fool!!

What? You haven’t? You never saw Hal Hartley’s sick and twisted 1998 comedy about the garbage man who became a famous poet?

If you want a witty, challenging comedy about art, pornography, poetry, trash, publishing, and puking, go back and check out 1997’s Henry Fool. James Urbaniak, Thomas Jay Ryan, Liam Aiken, and the hilarious Parker Posey make it a memorable, if unsettling, and very R-rated, experience. But this is not filth… it’s a movie about the definition of filth, the way art is exploited in consumer culture, and… as Parry said in The Fisher King… how you can find wonderful things in the trash.

There was no reason to expect a sequel to Henry Fool, but, well, here it is, in theaters and on DVD simultaneously.

Fay Grim picks up where Henry Fool left off. Several years after the disappearance of Fay’s husband, she’s raising their troubled son, visiting her world-famous brother Simon in prison, and dodging intelligence agents from all over the world who want Henry’s mysterious, profane diaries. Frustrated, Fay sets out to find her man, and ends up facing spies and terrorists.

Grim isn’t Hartley’s best film, but it’s certainly his most ambitious. I’d recommend it for die-hard Hartley fans only; it’s way too talky, and characters spend a lot of time explaining things to each other. Thus, it doesn’t strike as much comedy gold as its predecessor. But fans will love Posey’s performance. And it was worth it for me just to see Urbaniak play Simon again.

Jeff Goldblum is a welcome addition to Hartley’s universe of quirky characters, and it was great to see the gorgeous, fascinating Elina Löwensohn again. (She and Posey share the movie’s funniest moment.) But Saffron Burrows can’t find anything interesting to do with her character. And the conclusion falls flat when it should have been poignant.



Adrienne Shelly, who became a favorite actress of the indie scene in Hal Hartley’s brilliant 1989 comedy The Unbelievable Truth, was brutally murdered last November. She had just directed her third film, Waitress. And now that we can see what a warm, thoughtful, occasionally hilarious romantic comedy this is, it makes the loss of Shelly’s fantastic talent even harder to take.

Still, don’t let the tragedy prevent you from enjoying her accomplishment.

In Waitress, a pregnant and perturbed young beauty named Jenna, played by Keri Russell, finds herself in a nightmare marriage. Hope arrives in the form of a handsome, caring, lovestruck doctor, played by Nathan Fillion. But there’s a problem. Both of Jenna and the doctor are married. What are these two lovebirds going to do?

Fans of Firefly and Serenity, don’t despair. The charismatic Nathan Fillion may have a bright big-screen future ahead of him! Fillions’ great as the foolish Dr. Pomatter. He has great chemistry with Russell, who proves to be a delightful leading lady, and Andy Griffith almost steals the show.

Did I mention the pie? Russell plays a pie-making genius, and there’s just no choice about what to do after the movie is over—get out there, find your favorite pie shop, and indulge.

Verdict: The must-see date movie of the year.

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  • Fay Grim… I rate this one a bit higher than you do. After all, when was there a Hartley film that wasn’t “too talky” for some people? His dynamic has always been highly theatrical. And, actually, there are segments in the second half where the dialogue drops off a good deal. Also, Hartley’s people, in any film, are forever explaining things to each other–their past, their own characters, their plans for the future. It just so happens that here they are reinterpreting something that happened many years before, and they don’t simply rehash the plot to bring us up to speed–they’re doing what people really do: they interpret their stories aloud for clear psychological reasons. And the film’s ending makes much more sense when you realize Hartley means to do at least one more film with these characters.

    Waitress… And I rate this lower than you do. I think the film has a lot of great stuff, but it just isn’t very well rounded. And there’s the whole “affair” segment where 2 couples in the film are cheating on their spouses. Shelly seems to expect that we’ll be all caught up in the romance between Jenna and the doctor, but she’s such a cold character… and they’re obviously having a merely sexual relationship with no plans for the future. Sadly, the film also seemed to have the attitude that, well, affairs are okay if that’s just where you happen to be at that time in your life. Something tells me that it isn’t just Christian audiences who will find this attitude unsettling.

  • scandalon

    Can you comment on how the movie handled their adultery?

  • i4detail

    Loved Henry Fool, though as you say, it is a challenging movie to sit through. Not sure your comments make me want to rush out and see this one, though….