Sarah Paulson. Nicole Kidman. Ansel Elgort. Sometimes acting talent does not add up to the film you would expect. Film is a director’s medium. Most of the reason a film works is due to the person behind the camera. Their vision. Their pacing. Their way of telling the story. Here loads of talent does not override the fundamental problems with The Goldfinch.
Based on the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction by author Donna Tartt, the film adaptation is directed by John Crowley (Brooklyn, Closed Circuit). Which seems great as his last film Brooklyn was a marvel. However this one is slightly tone deaf.
At the age of 13, Theo Decker (Oakes Fegley – Pete’s Dragon – 2016, Wonderstruck) goes through something traumatic. While at an event at the Metropolitican Museum of Art his mother (Hailey Wist appeared in episodes of Under the Dome and One Tree Hill) is killed in a bombing. This changes his life forever.
In the confusion after the bombing, Theo survives and is able to leave with a painting. The painting is the valuable 1654 Carel Fabritius painting ‘The Goldfinch.” Afterwards, Theo is left pretty much to his own devices as his father is largely not around. As such he is placed with the family of his friend Andy (Ryan Foust – first feature film) and gets close to Mrs. Barbour (Nicole Kidman – The Others, Cold Mountain).
Just when it seems like Theo is going to be adopted by the Barbours, his father (Luke Wilson – The Royal Tenenbaums, Old School) and his new girlfriend, Xandra (Sarah Paulson – Carol, Glass), reappear and take Theo with them to Las Vegas.
Flash forward eight years and Theo (Ansel Elgot – The Fault in Our Stars, Divergent) is grown and returns to New York with his stolen painting. He gets a job in an arts and antiques shop owned by a man named Hobie (Jeffrey Wright – from television’s Westworld). One thing leads to another and Theo is not involved in the art forgery world.
Some books do not translate well onto the big screen. It can be for numerous reasons. The Goldfinch is a rather complex and layered novel. It probably would have been better suited to a series or mini-series. Something which allowed everyone the time to flesh out the story and characters.
There are some wonderful moments in the film. The actors all bring their A games and there is the Roger Deakins (Skyfall, Blade Runner 2049) factor. Deakins makes every film he works on look amazing. The man is a wonder. Everything is beautiful to look at here. Beautiful despite the bleak subject matter and tone.
The depressing nature of the story mixed with the fact that the film is 149 minutes makes for a trying combination for film watchers. Makes the film feel like it is dragging and dragging. Things that work on the page do not work on screen. Director Crowley should have tightened things up and make it more like a Dickens novel adaptation complete with plot twists and a conclusion. This one just drags on with the viewer getting nothing out of it in the end. Not that I like films that explain everything to you or tie things up in a bow, but something in the end is necessary or you just feel like you invested all that time for nothing. Apathy will, in this case, transform into boredome due to a lack of something to sink your teeth into.
- The Goldfinch Unbound
- The Real Goldfinch
- Over 16 minutes of deleted scenes with commentary from Director John Crowley
- Digital Copy