“The Goldfinch,” a best-seller by Donna Tartt, makes its cinematic debut with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Ansel Elgort portrays Theo, a young man whowrestles with the trauma from his childhood, losing his mother in a terrorist attackat an art museum. Taken in by a wealthy family, Theo’s journey will require great fortitude and resilience, but there’s much more to the story than we initially believe.
We meet Theo as an adult, in a depressed state, narrating how he came to this point in his life. We are then taken back in time, meeting Theo as a child (Oakes Fegley)on that fateful day. Experiencing the explosion, Theo is in a state of shock and is taken in by the Barbour family. The Upper East Side socialites have their own sordid issues but graciously take Theo in. Mrs. Barbour (Nicole Kidman), cold, distant yet polite begins to melt thanks to the joy that Theo seems to bring to thefamily, particularly Andy (Ryan Foust) who brings such personality to every scene.
Theo experienced several life-altering events during the explosion and these create the complexities within the story.
Much of the story is told in flashbacks as we see that the famed painting, The Goldfinch, is missing to the public, and we meet the pivotal characters of Hobie (Jeffrey Wright), Pippa (Ashleigh Cummings), Theo’s degenerate father Larry (Luke Wilson) and trashy girlfriend Xandra (Sarah Paulson), as well as classmate and Russian drug dealer Boris (Finn Wolfhard).
“The Goldfinch” is a complicated story worthy of the 784 pages, but translating this into a 2½ hour film is unattainable. The complexities of the characters cannot be conveyed and then become flat and uninteresting. Theo as a young child certainly captures our hearts, devastated by the events that he feels responsible, but as an adult the circumstances he finds himself in are so quickly thrown together that the entire tone of the film seems to inexplicably change. Elgort portraying Theo as an adult never finds the right pace and lacks emotional range which then bogs down this lengthy film.
With the all-star cast, you would hope that the star power of someone like Nicole Kidman would elevate the film, but unfortunately, her role is much too ancillary.
Surprisingly, Wilson and Paulson take on the roles of dregs of society with believable skill and Foust awakens the film with his authenticity. These parts, however, are much too small to keep the viewer’s interest, lulling us into a state of total boredom for the first 2 hours. It isn’t until the last 30 minutes that it becomes interesting, albeit it is quite convoluted, but the action actually starts.
“The Goldfinch” bites off more than it can chew as it spins in circles uncertain as to what direction to take. Never finding the right pace as it creates characters that are dull and two-dimensional, the focus of love and relationships with trust never seems to be fully realized. Overall, it’s a disappointing film that perhaps would have been better as a mini-series or left as just a best selling novel.