Slowly, and painfully

The Hawk Is Dying

on March 30, 2007 by Chad Greene
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Raspy raptor aside, The Hawk Is Dying never takes flight. Clunky and cryptic, writer/director Julian Goldberger's follow-up to the Independent Spirit Award-nominated Trans brings to mind the famous opening lines of “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

Especially the part about things falling apart.

Clumsily adapted from the 1973 novel of the same name by Harry Crews, The Hawk Is Dying is the tragic tale of an auto-upholster obsessed with becoming a falconer — or, more accurately, a “hawker.” George Gattling's (Paul Giamatti) previous attempts at trapping and training birds of prey in central Florida have been dismal failures. So much so that, when he and his autistic nephew Fred (Michael Pitt) manage to snare a red-tailed hawk, the pothead psych major (Michelle Williams) George is sort of seeing asks, “Are you going to kill this one, too?”

But this time George is determined to succeed or die trying — literally. After Fred drowns in a defective waterbed (no, that's not a joke), a grief-stricken George lashes the understandably unhappy hawk to his leather-gloved wrist and refuses to eat or sleep until it does — much to the consternation of the friends and family members who have gathered at the house to mourn.

“When you say shit like that, you make me sound crazy,” George protests when his best buddy (Robert Wisdom) criticizes his outrageous reaction to Fred's death. Sure, George: You “sound” crazy.

More opaque than oblique, The Hawk Is Dying is a metaphorical mess that the filmmaker attempts to clear up with an overly lyrical monologue from George — one which plays as a derivative retread of Giamatti's speech about Pinot Noir grapes in Sideways — that probably played a lot better on the page than on the screen. Distributor: Strand
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Michelle Williams, Robert Wisdom, Rusty Schwimmer, Ann Wedgeworth and Michael Pitt
Director/Screenwriter: Julian Goldberger
Producers: Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Mary Jane Skalski
Genre: Drama
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 106 min.
Release date: March 30, 2007 NY, May 4 Chi

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