Theodore Decker was 13 years old when his mother was killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The tragedy changes the course of his life, sending him on a stirring odyssey of grief and guilt, reinvention and redemption, and even love. Through it all, he holds on to one tangible piece of hope from that terrible day — a painting of a tiny bird chained to its perch.
John Crowley’s lastest feature film The Goldfinch is a fascinating one, not so much because the end result is amazing, but rather, it is fascinating because we often see glimmers of greatness sprinkled throughout the film as the plot progresses, but so many things often hold it back from being spectacular.
Crowley is obviously an extremely talented filmmaker, coming off the success of the Academy Award nominated historial period drama Brooklyn, which, much like The Goldfinch, was also a book to screen adaptation. It was the first time in which people really took notice of him as a truly talented force to be reckoned with in the industry. He even worked on the critically acclaimed television drama True Detective.
All signs pointed to this movie being one to look out for come awards season. Crowley’s direction, the highly talented cast, and the director of photography being Roger Deakins, who is one of the most admired cinematographers working in the industry.
Why does The Goldfinch not work? A large reason as to why is because of the screenplay, unfortunately. Donna Tartt’s groundbreaking novel was adored by millions due to its gripping story, interesting characters, and powerful moments. In the film adaptation however, these are elements that are strangely lacking. A ton of the dialogue in the film comes across as dull and it feels as if it is only there to keep the plot moving. The movie, while two and a half hours long, at times feels like it rushes things.
It is also one of those films that really does not have any memorable scenes whatsoever. This is such a disappointing aspect due to the source material being the exact opposite. The film, while faithful to the novel, never reaches the emotional heights that Tartt’s novel did.
The editing and musical choices for some of the sequences came across as a bit jarring and strange as well. It is nowhere near Bohemian Rhapsody level bad editing, but there are so many scenes where there are an abundance of quick cuts in one sequence that it can be frustrating.
Ansel Elgort is a grown up version of the lead character Theodore “Theo” Decker in The Goldfinch, which was something highly exciting for me. Elgort has proved himself in recent years to be an incredible actor, with great films such as The Fault in Our Stars and Baby Driver under his belt. His performance here is genuinely really good thankfully. The same can be said about the rest of the cast as well. Nicole Kidman, Finn Wolfhard, Sarah Paulson, and company are all really good in an otherwise lackluster motion picture.
My favorite element of this entire movie however, is the cinematography by Roger Deakins. Ever since my love of films began, he has been my all-time favorite cinematographer. He is responsible for some of the most beautiful looking movies ever, such as Blade Runner 2049, Prisoners, Skyfall, and No Country for Old Men attached to his filmography just to name a few. His shots are so good that it seems like he could film grass growing on somebody’s lawn and it would be interesting and beautiful to look at. All of the shots in The Goldfinch are truly amazing to look at, and there is really never a boring looking shot in the whole movie gladly.
While the cast is great and it has terrific cinematography from Roger Deakins, The Goldfinch is a disappointingly boring, slow, and uninspired film.
Overall Grade: C-
MPAA Rating: R for drug use and language
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Oakes Fegley, Aneurin Barnard, Finn Wolfhard, Sarah Paulson, Luke Wilson, Jeffrey Wright, Nicole Kidman
Directed by: John Crowley
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Running Time: 149 minutes