It was film critic Gene Siskel who normally would ask “Is this movie as interesting as the same actors having lunch together?” Had he lived to see The Goldfinch, the answer would be a short and direct no. With actors like Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, Oakes Fegley, Finn Wolfhard, Sarah Paulson, and Luke Wilson, it can be safetly assumed that the making of this film would almost be riveting (not to mention some of those behind the camera). Oh how I wish these people were in a different movie.
Alas, that is not the case, and we are stuck with The Goldfinch, based off the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Donna Tart (unread by me). The film starts in the aftermath of a (fictional) terrorist attack at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, leaving few survivors. One of which is 13 year old Theo (young talented Oakes Fegley), whose mother was killed in the attack. He is taken in briefly by an upper class family, the Barbour, and finds a somewhat newer mother figure in Mrs. Barbour (Nicole Kidman).We learn that one of the other victims in the attack was an acquaintance of a antiques dealer named Hobie (Jeffrey Wright), who takes young Theo under his wing as the young soul is more than intrigued by “old things” (not to mention Hobie’s adopted daughter Pippa, who also survived the attack and was catching Theo’s eye before the explosion). It is soon discovered by the audience that Theo has stolen a priceless artwork from the rubble, known as The Goldfinch.
He is soon taken away from his deadbeat dad (Luke Wilson) and his girlfriend Xandra (Sarah Paulson) to live with in the outskirts of Las Vegas. Though both seem loving, it does not take much to see that these two only want Theo for the money that his mother left him. The only light in Theo’s young life is his new friend Boris (Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things and the IT films), a Russian immigrant (though he mentions he is from many places).
There is a lot (to say the least) jumping around in this movie, as we fast forward to an adult Theo (Ansel Elgort), who now deals in antiques, and finds pieces of his past childhood experiences, which were mostly nothing short of bad, as certain people of the past have died (and in tragic ways). It is melodrama cranked to the max. I forgot to mention how, when he first moved in with the Harbour family, Mrs. Harbour introduced him to a prescription drug that helped with the affects of the aftermath of the attack (PTSD I guess). This starts Theo into a drug habit that escalates even more when he meets Boris (whose own home life is chaotic with his father). The end of the film shows a crime caper of sorts, which legit makes no sense.
I am sure this film had all the best of intentions (and I am sure the book is great), but the translation from page to screen is not merely lost: it vanishes. There was a lot of source material to work from (I found out the book is in the 700-800 page range), but the film still drags on for too long. Sure, the run time is long (two and a half hours), but even films at that length don’t always seem to drag as much (the first film to come to mind that had about that same length of runtime is The Dark Knight, which never dragged on). The Goldfinch had me checking my watch constantly, and that started about 20 or 30 minutes into the film.
Parents, the film is rated R mainly for language and drug use. There is no sexuality (though it is inferred that some characters have slept with each other). High School and above.
The film is directed by John Crowley, who was at the helm of 2015’s criminally under seen gem Brooklyn. He is clearly a talented filmmaker, but even the best of them have flops. The one bit of light for The Goldfinch is (somewhat poetically) that the man behind the lighting (i.e., the cinematographer) is the legendary Roger Deakins, meaning the film is indeed wonderful to look at.
Toward the end of the film, one character mentions how some good can come from bad. It will be sometime before I discover what good has come from seeing this film.