1998 ended up being a pivotal year in my life, and a good portion of it is still crystal clear in my memory 17 years on. And among the top films I experienced back then, was Hal Hartley’s glorious, infectious, delirious epic, “Henry Fool”. Too pretentious for some…yeah, I can see that. But I was absolutely, positively, sucked right into its web. Mr. Hartley had been a hot voice on the indie scene for nearly a decade by this point–and this was his masterpiece. Thomas Jay Ryan was roguish writer Henry, James Urbaniak was shy sanitation worker Simon Grim, Parker Posey was Fay Grim, and little Liam Aiken was Ned. Fast forward 9 years.
In 2007, came the exciting release of the “Henry Fool” sequel, “Fay Grim”, and honestly, the anticipation was much better than the payoff. I was initially giddy with excitement about the new movie, but the final result was met with lukewarm reaction from the critics–along with almost non-existent box office returns. This somewhat misguided “spy thriller” had Hartley and the entire principal cast back on board–plus Jeff Goldblum as Agent Fulbright! But there simply wasn’t enough Henry, and despite a strong performance from Parker Posey as Fay, the film sported very little flair. Not a washout…just not good enough.
Eight years on, and here comes “Ned Rifle”, with all-grown-up twentysomething, Liam Aiken, at the forefront as Ned. Mr. Ryan returns for Mr. Hartley again, as do Mr. Urbaniak and Ms. Posey, but this time the main newcomer is the elusive Aubrey Plaza as Susan. It’s difficult to put your finger on exactly what Ms. Plaza has, but she’s certainly got something. And maybe she’s the “kick”, that will bring this Hartley trilogy to an admirable close. The trailer certainly looks promising, and the reviews have been unequivocally stronger than its predecessor. Will the third time be the charm for the once-mighty, Hal Hartley? Soon, I’ll determine for myself, and you’ll be able to read about it right here.