The Hawk Is Dying ****
Directed by Julian Goldberger
Written by Julian Goldberger, based on the novel by Harry Crews
Paul Giamatti as George Gattling
Michelle Williams as Betty
Michael Pitt as Fred
Robert Wisdom as Billy Bob
Marc Macaulay as Alonzo
Karl Anthony as Dr. Leep
Rusty Schwimmer as Precious
112 Minutes(Not Rated-Language, Drugs)
"The Hawk Is Dying" is a poetic, haunting, and beautiful film which showcases one of Paul Giamatti's best and most emotionally investing role. This is one of the few times I have ever seen him cry on film, and the cynical Giamatti takes a little bit of a break. It is a dark and dank film, and one may be made at it just a little bit too much because it certainly won't make you smile, but that is the kind of film this is. Can't a film be dark and depressing because it fits the characters and situations? Giamatti has always been a very complex actor, managing to do a lot without doing much at all. He is long over due for an Oscar, and should have won (or at least been nominated) for his work in "Sideways" or "American Splendor," and if "The Hawk Is Dying" was given a chance or at least a bigger distribution it could have been noticed a little more than it will be. Instead it gets a release in a single theatre in New York City which isn't even one of the major art houses. I'll admit, I heard about this film about a year and a half ago, and was patiently waiting for some kind of release date. All things will come to those who wait.
Giamatti plays George Gattling, a car dealer who lives in Florida with his sister Precious and his mentally challenged nephew Fred. George has taken Fred on like a son and the two of them bond over wild hawks which George catches often. George has captured many hawks, but the thing is that he trains them all wrong and they end up dying. He decides that this time he will do things differently and the two of them catch a Red Tail Hawk, much to the dismay of his friends and family. They all tell him that he should stop with the hawks, that his methods are cruel. His stoner girlfriend Betty has had it with the hawks to the point where she doesn't even want to listen to him talk about them, or even look at it. George begins the training the normal way of the past until tragedy strikes and Fred dies in his water bed. George snaps and takes the hawk, straps it to his arm and refuses to take it off, refuses to eat until the hawk does, and refuses to sleep until the hawk does. George escapes from his house with his family in it and him and Betty take a short trip, hawk in tow.
"The Hawk Is Dying" is loaded with symbolism that demands careful attention. I'm sure that some of it went over my head, but the overall message is emotionally all over the place. This story is not about George and the hawk, but about George and Fred, shown through George's training of the hawk. There are two types of birds mentioned throughout the film-the hawk and the owl. The owl is described as the stupidest of all birds, while the hawk is seen as a more beautiful creature. Being mentally challenged one could say that Fred would be the owl, the studliest of all human beings, but it is exactly the opposite. George was also never able to train the hawk while Fred was alive and is determined to not mess up the training of this new hawk, or else he would consider himself a failure. This is where the Giamatti of the past comes in, always scared that he will be a failure in life, only this time he is determined never to give up. Giamatti is perfect here, and deserves to get a little more acclaim that he has. He even works with the hawk brilliantly, and should get a reward for his handling of the animal. After all, the hawk is attached to his forearm for about two third of the movie.
I have to conclude by saying that in the entire span of the movie-the whole two hours-the most powerful bits are not the brilliantly written monologue in the middle of the forest, or a deeply moving scene in a funeral parlor, but the final moments. It seems like every Giamatti film I see ends up with everybody leaving him to go home or their separate ways, and then its just him. The last few moments are his final moments with the hawk, a short little montage of the training. These are the bits that will haunt you the most-where he is depressed but looks happy because he is finally doing his nephew right, and is finally being the uncle he always tried to be. "The Hawk Is Dying" is one of the best films of the year, and also the one that will pass over everybody. Nobody will see it because it was never shown the light of day. Giamatti fans should look out for this one, and I was certainly be watching Julian Goldberger. "The Hawk Is Dying" will be out of the New York theatre soon because nobody went to see it, but it will be out on DVD in May.