The Hawk is Dying
Director: Julian Goldberger

Director: John Herzfeld

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl


2 Days in the Valley A wonderfully nutty cast of eccentric characters, 2 Days in the Valley (1996) includes James Spader as a psychotic assassin, Charlize Theron as a would-be femme fatale, Eric Stoltz as a naive boyscout of a police officer, & Paul Mazursky as a clinically depressed washed up film director willing to tempt a hit-man to shoot him.

The dream-cast additionally features Danny Aiello as the hit man with a heart of gold who would rather make pizza, Greg Cruttwell as the repulsive art dealer who abuses his sweet assistant Glenne Headly, Marsha Mason as the kindly kidnapped nurse, with other little character-studies throughout.

As a crime film it is cluttered & ineffective, but as a satirical comedy set against criminal mayhem, it's a delightful film chalk full of adorable performances.

The heart of the film is provided by Aiello's endearing hitman & Glenne Headly as the mousy girl who sees the good heart of the killer & brings out his heroism. This crime comedy is in fact everything that romantic comedies rarely are: truly romantic & truly comedic.

The Hawk is Dying A quirky bleak serious-minded satire on sadness, The Hawk is Dying (2006) is based on a 1973 novel by legendary Southern gothic novelist & short story writer Harry Crews.

Crews can be seen playing himself, telling gruesome stories, in the mocumentary Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus (2005).

Crews has been noted for the blackest of black comedy, but as adapted to film by Julian Goldberger, there's hardly a chortle, though there's gigantic emotional impact.

The tale unveils the cruddy, disappointing life of George Gattling (Paul Giamatti in one of his finest roles). George operates a detailing & upholstery garage in rural Florida, hardly inspiring work. He feels very much alone in the world, except for his deep affection for his chain-smoking nephew Fred (Michael Pitt), son of his crabby fat sister, Precious (Rusty Schwimmer).

The Hawk is DyingHis one unique interest is hawking, a hobby he is glad to share with his nephew. So far, alas, the hawks they have obtained with tangle-nets refused to be trained, & starved to death rather than adjust to captivity. The next hawk they capture is a startling beauty, a big red-tailed female.

George's joy & awe of the hawk & in falconry generally sets him apart. But his failure at falconriy to date -- the doom he has imposed on birds -- makes his personal distinction a burden of emotion. If he gives up on his desire to train a bird, he'll be just like all the other assholes, fools, rednecks & ignorant yobs of this world, lost of all imagination or comprehension of beauty.

Fred his beloved nephew isn't entirely right in the head. It might be Asbergers or mild retardation. Even so, his sense of wonder is intact, which makes him better than most people.

When Fred's bizarre accident occurs, the story goes into an unexpected turn into horror, anger, & grief. The only way George can find redemption in this wretched world -- redemption not only from sadness but from his own asshole nature -- is through the hawk. Yet it is hard to locate the demarkation between meaningful hobby, & cruelty to animals.

The Hawk is DyingIn the midst of grief, it seems that achieving that evasive, mystical connection with a hawk is all the more essential.

He ties the hawk to his glove & begins to be with it every hour of the day & night. Either it will bond with him & learn to trust him, or they both die, as George refuses to eat until the bird eats.

This method & activity really does become the most beautiful thing in George's otherwise ugly life. At the same time, a girl (Michelle Williams) who once condescended to sleep with Fred becomes an increasingly complex character in George's life.

The terror & athe beauty of The Hawk is Dying finds compassion & value even in the ugliness & tragedy of human existence. This is one of the best portraits of grief I've ever seen, with the hawk's presence a force of nature that embodies every aspect of human hope & human frailty & human failing vs achievement. An amazing film, truly.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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