“THE HAWK IS DYING”– bizarre obsessions

“The Hawk is Dying”

Bizarre Obsessions

Amos Lassen

Strand Releasing has a big hit on tap for us this summer and the release of “The Hawk is Dying” is sure to create an audience. The movie stars two time Academy Award nominee, Paul Giamatti who has quite a role here. He plays George Gattling from Gainesville, Florida who is unhappy and lonely. He details cars and lives with his sister, Precious who is also a malcontent and her mentally ill son, Fred (Michael Pitt). When Fred’s dad deserted the family some twenty years earlier, George began to raise Fred. George has virtually no love life except for a casual sexual relationship with a young psychology student who could probably be his daughter.

George and Fred have one passion in common, the sport of kings, falconry. By training falcons and hawks, George feels a sense of the past that he thinks is nonexistent in the modern world. However whenever he attempts to train a bird, the result is death of the animal. George and Fred try to catch a hawk and while doing so ties his own fate to the fate of the bird. Hawks that are kept in cages will sometimes starve themselves to death rather than submit to being caught. In an attempt to find meaning in his life, George refuses to eat or drink until the hawk he has caught does.

As tragedy comes to the family, George’s obsession with the hawk increases and he is so bent on taming the wild bird that he borders on insanity and he alienates and bewilders those around him. The hawk and man are at odds—as George locks himself into a battle of the will with the bird, the bird would rather die than give in.

The movie is based upon Harry Crews’s semi-autobiographical novel which he published in 1973. We meet bizarre characters who drive themselves, by their obsessions, to the very limits of human experience. The compassion of the film as seen through George’s determination to tame the hawk. This gives beauty and humor to the film as if George is one who marches to the beat of a different drummer. This obsession of George’s pulls at the viewer and drags him into the film in a way I did not think was possible. Giamatti gives another Oscar caliber performance but he is not alone. The entire film is imbued with great acting by a superior cast. The movie moves you like few can do. Michael Pitt as the mentally challenged Fred gives a performance of sheer beauty and he rises to new heights in a supporting role.

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