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‘Wildcat’ review: Maya Hawke shines in Southern Gothic tales

Everything that rises must converge.

Wildcat is a glimpse inside the life of an often overlooked American writer. Flannery O’Connor works tirelessly on her first novel. She is also dealing with a serious illness and the relationship with her mother. All the while she is trying to reconcile how her religion fits into her life and her writing. 

Calling the film an anthology would not be correct, but the way it weaves in some of O’Connor’s short stories is reminiscent of one. This is a nice touch that succeeds at accomplishing a number of things. It provides insight into the author and brings an atmosphere that is surprisingly lacking in the “real” moments in Wildcat. (There is also the added bonus of seeing some of O’Connor’s most famous stories adapted to film.)

Maya Hawke does a fantastic job that goes beyond playing the Southern Gothic author. She also plays fictional characters in some of the short story segments. One of the highlights of Wildcat is her emotional range in the ‘Good Country People’ story. The tale is a twisted one in which Hawke shows off a commanding screen presence.

Wildcat focuses on how aspects of O’Connor’s life influenced her writing. Catholicism and her upbringing cast large shadows. Director Ethan Hawke makes just about everything important. Though some moments seem undercooked – the subplot involving Pulitzer Prize winning poet Robert Lowell adds nothing – the vast majority is a captivating watch. The movie is also a great introduction to Southern Gothic literature.

Wildcat opens May 3rd in theaters

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