Rare Birds, starring William Hurt, Molly Parker and Andy Jones, tells the story of a down-on-his-luck chef and restaurant owner. William Hurt is Dave, owner of The Auk, a small establishment in coastal Newfoundland. Dave’s neighbor, Phonce (Jones), hatches a plan to get more patrons for The Auk: fake a super-rare bird sighting by calling in to an ornithological radio program. The birdwatchers will come in droves and business will boom, according to Phonce.
I really wanted to like this movie. I am a fan of William Hurt and I was looking forward to seeing him in this somewhat birder-themed film. And the acting, by Hurt and others, is indeed fine. But the motivations of the main characters are a mystery throughout the film. There are also some extremely bizarre side stories, some of which involve an elaborate, unbelievable invention by Phonce, along with his inexplicable conspiracy theories. Other secondary plots (there are several) don’t make much more sense, and the relationships between Dave and his neighbor and employees are beyond weird. I don’t have anything against odd characters (being one myself), but the writing didn’t give these oddballs any depth and the inexplicable actions were just frustrating. It finally occurred to me that the rare birds in the movie are the main characters.
The fact that birdwatchers are the brunt of the characters’ silly stunt isn’t a bother. After spending the day in the field, it didn’t really ring true to me that those seeking to view the rare bird would be dressed for and up to dining in a fine restaurant, but okay. The search for the one-hit-wonder bird seems to go on longer than I would expect – business is fairly booming at The Auk for what seems like several weeks after just one day of reported sightings. These minor birding missteps aren’t the problem, though. It’s everything else in the movie.
I give Rare Birds two goldfinches out of five.