Film Review – The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch (M)

Directed by: John Crowley

Starring: Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, Oakes Fegley

Two and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

The Goldfinch proves the complexities of a popular, Pulitzer Prize winning novel cannot always be successfully translated into an equally acclaimed film, despite a range of talent behind and in front of the camera.

Thirteen-year-old Theo Decker’s (Oakes Fegley) life is thrown into turmoil when his mother is killed in a bombing while the pair appreciate the arts one afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

While dealing with crippling grief and guilt, a devastating combo for such a young person, Theo is taken in by the Barbour’s, a wealthy Upper East Side family headed by the emotionally distant but sympathetic Mrs Barbour (Nicole Kidman).

From here we follow Theo’s life: his short time with the Barbour family where bonds are made, back with his deadbeat father Larry (Luke Wilson) who abandoned him at young age and is now drowning in debt, dabbling in drugs with new school mate Boris (Finn Wolfhard) and through to adulthood (as played by Ansel Elgort) where he works with antique dealer Hobie (Jeffrey Wright).

This plot rundown barely scratches the surface of this sprawling story (recounting every aspect would equate to novel length and slip into spoiler territory for those unfamiliar with the book), which constantly teases that everything will eventually come together and it is all heading somewhere profound. The only thing is that the destination hardly seems worth the journey.


The Goldfinch covers a lot of territory with its lead character going through the gamut of events, tragedies and emotions and myriad themes touched on but here, not explored deeply enough. Even at two and a half hours, it does not feel long enough to properly unpack everything that one can presume the novel covers.

And yet at two and a half hours, The Goldfinch feels like an eternity. One this is for sure – it is the most long winded way to explore art appreciation.

While it is admirable that director John Crowley (who brought us the exquisite Brooklyn adaptation not so long ago) has chosen to tell this story without sensationalising each dramatic moment, the way it is presented can best be described as dreary.

It is all very nice to look at with some handsome-looking scenes, and there are a handful of good performances (Sarah Paulson is the standout in far too few scenes as a trashy step-mum type), but it all has trouble cohering.

The book may have received a top honour, the film however, will not.


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