The Hawk Is Dying is the kind of independent film people are talking about when they dismiss indie films as predictable exercises in pretension, littered with paint-by-number cliches and little insight. Pure though its intentions may be, writer/director Julian Goldberger assembles a talented cast to basically play roles they could do without even reading a script.
Working from Harry Crews' 1973 novel, Oscar nominee Paul Giamatti adds yet another maudlin sad sack role to his resume, playing the role of Floridian auto upholsterer George Gattling, a worn-down man who only wants to train hawks as a means of escape from his dead-end existence (um, insert incredibly apparent "taking flight" metaphor here). He lives with his chatterbox sister Precious (Rusty Schwimmer) and pals around with his troubled nephew Fred (Michael Pitt, looking all moon-eyed and vaguely Gilbert Grape-ish) and occasionally drops in on -- here comes the magic indie trifecta -- slutty, stoned and smart psychology student Betty (Oscar nominee Michelle Williams, far better than this). What separates The Hawk Is Dying from other, similar roles that Giamatti has played is that Hawk is an unrelenting exercise in despair, devoid of any humorous interludes or respites from downcast navelgazing, a portrait of a man so weighed down by life that he persists in a rare hobby, which from what I could tell, serves no other purpose than that of blindingly obvious metaphorical device.
Goldberger doesn't appear to have any interest in making The Hawk Is Dying any more than what it is: a character study of an inert soul, intermittently stirred to life. Were it not for Giamatti's reliably superb performance as George, the film wouldn't even be worth a glance. All of the Southern Gothic drapery Goldberger swaddles the narrative in can't camouflage the fact that those expecting an modest, involving drama will be left wanting. The DVD
The Hawk Is Dying swoops onto DVD with a non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. Surprisingly, the image is quite solid, only getting a bit noisy and soft during the nighttime scenes. Otherwise, lines are crisp and focus is sharp for a non-anamorphic image. The Audio:
Plain 'ol Dolby 2.0 stereo is all that's offered here, which gets the job done. A talky flick, the dialogue is mostly clean and clear, although there were a few instances where I had to crank the volume a bit above normal to make out what was being said. Sadly, no optional English subtitles are included. The Extras:
Why is the films that you don't necessarily want to revisit include hefty batches of bonus features? Goldberger and Giamatti sit for a commentary track, which gives way to the 19 minute, six second interview with Crews (titled "The Art of Harry Crews") and a two minute, 35 second excerpt from the documentary "The Rough South of Harry Crews." An eight minute "Animal Movie Magic" featurette details the work that went into training hawks for the film; 14 minutes of deleted scenes, playable all together are included, as is the film's theatrical trailer, theatrical poster, a production stills montage and a cast and crew photo montage. Final Thoughts:
Writer/director Julian Goldberger doesn't appear to have any interest in making The Hawk Is Dying any more than what it is: a character study of an inert soul, intermittently stirred to life. Were it not for Paul Giamatti's reliably superb performance, the film wouldn't even be worth a rental. All of the Southern Gothic drapery Goldberger swaddles the narrative in can't camouflage the fact that those expecting an modest, involving drama will be left wanting. Rent it.