Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Wildcat Movie Review

 Ethan and Maya Hawke's film about Flannery O'Connor, Wildcat, is now in theatres across the country.

Amy Welborn reviewed Wildcat here. 

 In Wildcat, the basics of the first part of the story are dramatized, and Julian’s (played by Maya Hawke, awkwardly) smugness is apparent, but it is a minor note in a story in which the mother’s racism takes center stage – as the dramatization is juxtaposed with moments of bigotry and pride Flannery observes around her (producing a reductiveness I look at here).  When you read the story, you are struck most of all, though, by Julian, and our attention is drawn to him and our hearts are broken by him when he realizes, all too late, what he done and what he had failed to do.

The film’s version doesn’t indicate any of this, with its focus on the mother to the exclusion of Julian’s own prideful presence.

I’ve spent a lot of time on this, and don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed Wildcat and very much appreciate what the Hawkes have done here. The moments focusing just on Flannery herself are very, very good and Maya Hawke should be nominated for awards for her performance. There are some moving moments – a couple that indeed made me well up. I enjoyed the film and will go see it again when it hits Birmingham later in the month. I also understand the limits of what anyone can do on film in regard to spirituality without being pedantic or preachy – heck, I spent hours and hours and hours over the past few months talking about it! 

So yes, so many of the pieces are there: her faith, her sense of distance from the world around her, her writing process and struggles, her illness, the nature of her fiction. All of that makes the film worthwhile. But what bother me is the failure to connect all of those elements with the account that Flannery herself gave of her life, vocation and writing. It’s unfortunate that a viewer of Wildcat with no previous knowledge of Flannery, would come away from seeing the film with, I suspect, no better idea after than before as to why in the world she sent her first story collection to Sally Fitzgerald with the message:

Nine stories about Original Sin, with my compliments.

Wildcat movie