The Goldfinch is a boring slog of a film where it non-linear storytelling somehow makes it even more incoherent.
Director: John Crowley
A boy in New York is taken in by a wealthy Upper East Side family after his mother is killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
There is a lot that goes into adapting material from one medium to another. We don’t read a book the same way we watch a movie, we don’t watch a play the same way we read a comic book, and where most adaptations fail is when they fail to recognize that. The book to movie adaptation is one of the most common we get and in the case of The Goldfinch it seems that things fell apart in a very big way. This is a movie where we jump all over the timeline of the story in a way that keeps anything from really materializing. The moment the audience starts to get engaged in a section of the story is the moment it skips around in the timeline again.
The trailers for The Goldfinch haven’t been doing it any favor though in retrospect that makes sense now that the movie has premiered. The trailers don’t seem to know what the movie is about and by the time the credits the movie doesn’t seem to know what it is about either. There are dangling plot threads, unresolved storylines, and by the end it seems that they were trying to make a point but didn’t bother to actually say what the point was. There is leaving it open to your audience and then there is being so vague that no one is able to get anything from it.
The Goldfinch’s rather impressive cast is doing their damndest to make this movie watchable with the standout being Oakes Fegley who plays the kid version of Theo but aside from him everything is a mess. Nicole Kidman has played a lot of interesting maternal figures over the year but it is impossible to see what she is doing in this role. Ansel Elgort has been good in the past and perhaps the adult version of Theo is supposed to be entirely unlikable. Finn Wolfhard brings some unintentional comedy to the proceedings as Boris with the most ridiculous Russian accent.
However, to place the blame on any of the actors would be harsh since the screenplay by Peter Straughan is terrible. Straughan has written great screenplays in the past, Tinker Tailor Solider Spy being one of them, but he also butchered the adaptation of The Snowman in 2017. Between the mess of a script, the only redeeming quality of The Goldfinch is that it’s a very good looking movie though that is likely entirely on cinematographer Roger Deakins.
The Goldfinch might be based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning book but as a movie, it falls completely flat. There is no reason to care what is going on and thus no reason not to mentally check out less than fifteen minutes in.
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