2024, NR, 103 min. Directed by Ethan Hawke. Starring Maya Hawke, Laura Linney, Christine Dye, Rafael Casal, Philip Ettinger, Cooper Hoffman, Steve Zahn, Vincent D'Onofrio.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., May 31, 2024

Maya Hawke has a captivating voice – a lazy Susan from melodious to raspy and back again – which is lucky as you’ll have lots of time to admire it in this dreamy picture of the Southern writer Flannery O’Connor, directed by Hawke’s dad, Ethan. Her Flannery speaks almost ceaselessly, typically in service of crafting a narrative. On a train and at a party, she imagines stories inspired by the people around her. In letters, she details her struggles following a lupus diagnosis to her friend, the poet Robert Lowell, with whom Hawke and his co-writer Shelby Gaines imagine a love connection. In direct address, she speaks to God, about her crisis of faith and attempts to reconcile her illness with her literary ambitions. And in her short stories, which the film reenacts with a terrific klatch of actors I came to think of as the Ethan Hawke Players (some of whom also appeared in his excellent docuseries The Last Movie Stars), Flannery narrates the action as it plays out on screen.

“A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” and “Good Country People” are some of the stories adapted here, and Maya Hawke appears in them as well. The filmmakers do subtle work framing these short story vignettes as Flannery in the act of authorship, rewriting a line or startling from the violence of her own imagination. It tracks, then, that she picture herself in featured roles, often as characters that demonstrate essential aspects of O’Connor (her faith, her ailments). Amusingly, her mother Regina (played by Laura Linney) appears in the fiction vignettes too, in different guises, most of them villainous.

If that all sounds a little meta, then you’ve hit the nail on the head. Indeed, the film opens with a black & white trailer for a made-up movie, one based on O’Connor’s short story “The Comforts of Home.” For nailing the sensationalistic aesthetics of the era’s coming attractions, it’s a hoot; in setting up the film’s blurry double life as biography and adaptation both, it’s a good head start. It also hammers home right away that Wildcat will be a far richer experience for audiences already familiar with O’Connor’s work. For neophytes, there’s still much to enjoy – cinematographer Steve Cosen’s painterly framing, exuberant scenery chewing (Linney makes a meal out of one vignette’s rotted teeth) – but the thematic resonance between story and storyteller gets a little lost when you’re only working off the reenactments’ CliffsNotes.

Read Richard Whittaker's interview with Ethan Hawke.


AFS Cinema

6406 N. I-35 Ste. 3100, 512/322-0145, www.austinfilm.org/cinema

Wed., June 12

digital 5:35

Sat., June 15

digital 1:00

Mon., June 17

digital 3:45

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Ethan Hawke
Ethan Hawke Pens a Valentine to Theatre in <i>A Bright Ray of Darkness</i>
Ethan Hawke Pens a Valentine to Theatre in A Bright Ray of Darkness
His new novel is also a prayer for the stage and a reminder of the healing power of performance

Robert Faires, April 23, 2021

Everybody Has Some
Everybody Has Some
In a round-robin interview, Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Louis Black open up about their new films

March 11, 2016

More Ethan Hawke
Austin Heads to Sundance
Austin Heads to Sundance
Zellners' latest and Blaze Foley film booked for Utah fest

Richard Whittaker, Dec. 1, 2017

With Ti West <i>In a Valley of Violence</i>
With Ti West In a Valley of Violence
Director on PTSD, Westerns, and the world's greatest dog

Richard Whittaker, Oct. 21, 2016

More Ethan Hawke Films
The life and legacy of Austin's ill-fated Duct Tape Messiah

Matthew Monagle, Aug. 17, 2018

Seymour: An Introduction
Ethan Hawke directs this doc about pianist and teacher Seymour Bernstein

Marjorie Baumgarten, March 27, 2015

More by Kimberley Jones
Arts, Comedy, Theatre, Movies, and More Recommended Weekend Events
Arts, Comedy, Theatre, Movies, and More Recommended Weekend Events
Jackie and Foxy Brown?! Yes please!

June 7, 2024

Party People, Zines, Sharks, and More Events for the Week Ahead
Party People, Zines, Sharks, and More Events for the Week Ahead
Don't wait for the weekend!

June 7, 2024


Wildcat, Ethan Hawke, Maya Hawke, Laura Linney, Christine Dye, Rafael Casal, Philip Ettinger, Cooper Hoffman, Steve Zahn, Vincent D'Onofrio

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle