The Goldfinch

Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Goldfinch, uses a true story about Dutch painter Carel Fabritius, who in the mid-1650’s, died during an explosion that killed many in the town (and destroyed all but about 12 of his paintings). The fictional part is that his painting “The Goldfinch” is in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, and a terrorist explosion kills many people in the museum. A young boy lost his mom, but acquired a love interest — and a nice painting — in the deal.

Neither my wife and I were ever bored during the 2 ½ hour run time, but we were both disappointed. A story dealing with grief, trauma, and how different your life can turn out because of a series of events…seems like the perfect vehicle for a well-reviewed movie that might get a few Oscar nominations. Certainly the performances in this are Oscar-worthy.

Nicole Kidman gives an understated performance that’s beautiful.

Theodore Decker, as a boy, played by Oakes Fegley of Wonderstruck and Pete’s Dragon. As a young man he’s played by Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars, Baby Driver). They’re both perfectly cast. That boy is an amazing actor, even with subtle facial expressions of being uncomfortable or angry. Elgort has an uncomfortable smile that fits what the character is going through most of the movie.

Sarah Paulson plays a trashy cocktail waitress, although she’s not given a whole lot to do.

Jeffrey Wright is a furniture and antique dealer that is a wonderful character named Hobie. He ends up raising his partner’s daughter Pippa, and he’s the perfect father figure to Theo. Especially since his real dad (played a bit cartoonish by Luke Wilson) is a loser that drinks and gambles too much.

It’s interesting how resourceful Theo can be, after dealing with such a horrific moment, and seemingly adapting well when crazy things are thrown at him. He starts living with a new family, where an older brother has anger issues, and the dad is a bit odd. Once he starts living with his real dad and his floozy of a girlfriend, he again, seems to be a happy boy who has adjusted. Of course, once he meets a boy from the Ukraine (Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things and It) who likes to smoke and drink, Theo goes down that path.

Director John Crowley, who gave us the overrated Brooklyn (Saoirse Ronan), and the terrific Boy A, frames shots nicely here. Yet the movie ends up being a rather hollow experience. It’s strange how you don’t feel the requisite sympathy for these characters.

The screenplay is by Peter Straughan, who bored us to tears with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and it seems like he left out some details from the book that would’ve made this a more enjoyable film. He also gave us a 3rd act that’s so utterly ridiculous, it almost made me hate the picture. It involves a trip to Amsterdam that doesn’t seem the least bit realistic. There are also a handful of scenes that had poor dialogue.

The film is shot beautifully, by the always reliable Roger Deakins, the best in the business.

There’s a lovely score by Trevor Gureckis, which is also helped nicely with some classical piano by Glenn Gould, a Radiohead song, and one of the best cover songs in music history — Van Morrison (Them) doing Dylan’s It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.

2 stars out of 5.


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