Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by the same name written by Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch is the latest novel-to-film adaptation looking to make a splash in theatres. Making its premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the movie boasts a star-studded cast which includes Nicole Kidman, Jeffrey Wright, Ansel Elgort, Finn Wolfhard, Luke Wilson and Sarah Paulson.
The film begins with Theodore “Theo” Decker (Elgort) in a hotel room in a currently unknown location, scrubbing blood out of his white dress shirt. Where the blood came from, is not yet known to the audience and upon hearing Theo’s voice, we are transported back to a tragic event he experienced during his formative years – a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The tragedy shapes Theo’s life in a way he’s never imagined, spilling into his adulthood in the most unexpected of ways. After the bombing, young Theo (Oakes Fegley) searched for his mother to no avail, only to find out that she died in the blast. With his father, Larry (Wilson) currently out of the pictures, the only person he can think of to stay with is his friend Andy and his family.
Due to his enjoyment of art, Theo forms a bond with Andy’s mother, Samantha (Kidman). Enjoying antiques and artwork herself, Samantha shows Theo some of her most prized art pieces that are hung up everywhere in her New York home. While the bond between Andy and Theo grows, as does the bond between Theo and Samantha, so much so that Samantha offers to bring Theo away with the entirety of the Barbour family for the summer. Theo is finally beginning to enjoy happiness once more when his father returns suddenly, with his girlfriend Xandra (Paulson). Leaving the Barbours behind, Theo is thrown into an entirely new world in Las Vegas. Here, he meets Boris (Finn Wolfhard) and a new round of tragic events begin in Theo’s life.
Still consumed by guilt for the many tragic events in his life, Theo eventually finds himself on a potentially dark path – one that could have a serious impact on the life of his mentor and colleague, James “Hobie” Hobart (Wright). Unable to deal with any more loss or grief, Theo attempts to fix his wrongs of the past, which all began the day of the bombing.
With powerful performances from all of its cast members, The Goldfinch relies heavily on the performances of its secondary characters. While many of the characters that appear on-screen do not have the same amount of screen time as Elgort, Fegley and Wolfhard, they truly make the most of their performances. Those who particularly stood out were Kidman, Wright and Paulson. Regardless of their limited screen time, they made their presence felt every time the audience was able to share in watching a scene with them. Wright was quite captivating as Hobie, the antiques restorer and shop owner. Not only was he Theo’s mentor, he was also in a way, Theo’s moral compass. His like delivery was effortless and watching him show Theo his work with the antiques was something I could watch all day.
That being said, I wouldn’t say I was the film’s biggest fan. While, I didn’t exactly have an adverse reaction to it, I didn’t love it either. Other than the great performances from the majority of the cast, it was simply okay. It was ‘meh’, if you will. It is always difficult to capture a lot of what makes novels great when it comes to film adaptations, and The Goldfinch certainly fits that category. Even with the film’s length (clocking in at about 150 minutes), it takes a long time for things to happen. It’s a slow-burn, but it doesn’t work well as one. With a film, you’re not afforded the same amount of time as a book for a build-up. Due to this, almost every thing, every conclusion, happens all at once and this ultimately left me feeling dissatisfied. Aside from the performances, The Goldfinch was missing something – something I still cannot put my finger on.
The Goldfinch makes its way to North American theaters on September 13.