THE GOLDFINCH review by Patrick Hendrickson – Ansel Elgort headlines a disappointing adaptation

THE GOLDFINCH review by Patrick Hendrickson – Ansel Elgort headlines a disappointing adaptation

The Goldfinch is an odyssey-like story which revolves around a young man named Theo. One morning during a visit to a museum of art with his mother, he comes across a painting called “The Goldfinch.” A terrorist attack leaves his mother dead, and the painting ends up in his possession after he attempts to save it from being damaged. The movie switches between two different time periods, with Theo being played by Ansel Elgort as an adult and Oakes Fegley as a boy.

The story is not a bad one, but a lack of focus makes it difficult to become invested in what’s going on. This is because there is such a lack of any grounding within this world. The movie flicks back and forth between time periods and locations so quickly that following things becomes a chore. And mentally creating a timeline of events is downright impossible. The performances similarly are not bad, but there are no standouts. Nicole Kidman speaks in a very odd voice, it is not quite an accent she is putting on, just a bizarre diction and tonality to her voice. She plays Mrs. Barbour, the mother of one of Theo’s friends who takes him in after the death of his mother.

Jeffrey Wright does a good job as Hobie, an antique’s dealer who takes Theo under his wing at an early age. Hobie is the character through which we manage to glean some kind of theme or meaning behind this very long and drawn out movie. Once Hobie realizes that Theo has kept the painting all these years, he has an emotional monologue declaring “It’s not yours to keep!” This is a powerful character moment that is washed away by all the distracting elements of this movie.

There are so many characters in this mess of a story that trying to detail all of them would be unreasonable. The major contributors to Theo’s life would be Hobie, Mrs. Barbour, and finally Boris. Boris is played by two different actors depending on the timeframe of the scene. Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame plays him as a child, and Aneurin Barnard plays him as an adult. Boris befriends Theo after he is removed from the Barbour household and taken in by his alcoholic father Larry (Luke Wilson). Years later they remeet in New York as adults and it is through Boris that Theo finally comes to closure in regards to the status of the painting.

The Goldfinch feels completely empty despite being a rather long and drawn out story. There is plenty of on-screen content, but it feels completely surface. There are hints of larger themes such as the preservation of art and working through grief, but these hints remain unexplored.

The major issue with this film would be a lack of any connecting thread or thematic elements as well as a general lack of any noteworthy events. There just is not much that happens in this narrative. It’s merely a bunch of people doing stuff. This would be less annoying if the run time was not two and a half hours. There is plenty of fat to trim which would have made the story tighter and more effective. Overall, The Goldfinch gets a 2/5

THE GOLDFINCH opens September 13, 2019

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