A polarized-reviewed novel gets a bad film adaptation
“The Goldfinch” is based on Donna Tartt’s 2013 novel, which had a divided reaction from American and foreign readers, but nonetheless, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014. Now, it has become a movie so depressing and cynical that it left me feeling bored. It’s almost impossible to like anything about it, and wastes its 2 hour and 30 minute period on misery and turmoil.
Ansel Elgort and Oakes Fegley are both good actors, who’ve individually made fine movies in the past; but they’re both bland as the same person from two different time periods. That person is Theo Decker, whose mother was killing in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and has kept a stolen portrait of the Goldfinch. He ultimately feels guilty about her tragic demise.
Fegley plays the child Theo, who stays with a wealthy New York family (Nicole Kidman as the matriarch), his alcoholic father (Luke Wilson), who claims to be sober, and his lousy girlfriend (Sarah Paulson) in Nevada, and finally with an antique shop owner (Jeffrey Wright). He has a passion for classic music and literature, and he also sparks a friendship with a Russian kid (Finn Wolfhard), who introduces him to drugs and alcohol. He then chooses to escape when his father’s alcoholic addiction leads to his bankruptcy and demise, and heads back to New York.
And Elgort plays the older Theo, who, later in the film, is threatened with an FBI investigation, because of the stolen portrait. And he’s still haunted by his past, while being reunited with old childhood friends.
The only good thing is when Wright plays the shopkeep, who was partners with one of the bombing victims, and offers the hero words of wisdom. At the very least, he doesn’t talk like an alien in a cliche-stricken debacle, but that’s not enough.
“The Goldfinch” is a drama that takes a consumable amount of time, and yet, it never goes anywhere. The characters are so blandly portrayed, you can’t even tell if they’re even committed to the rules, as much as they claim to be in interviews. Every fine talent, from Elgort and Fegley as the main protagonist to Wilson, Paulson, and Kidman as his other guardians, is wasted.
The movie was directed by John Crowley, who made one of the best Irish movies of recent memory “Brooklyn.” Here, he has made a stunning failure that looks and feels like nobody would even care about. “Manchester by the Sea” was a sad movie, but it was delved deeply into, and had characters you sympathize for. “The Goldfinch” is an empty movie, one of the worst of the year.