“The Goldfinch,” based off the Pulitzer Prize winning book by Donna Tart, does manage to tell an intriguing story that is ultimately undermined by its lackluster writing and performances.
The movie follows Theo Decker, who as a young boy, witnesses his mother’s death in an art gallery bombing. In the years following, he enters a world of crime hiding and protecting “The Goldfinch,” a priceless painting that he took from the rubble.
Now, I have never read the book, but when I saw the trailer, I was fairly excited. I went into the movie with high hopes, and in the opening minutes of the film, I actually found myself quite interested in the story that the movie was trying to tell. Theo’s character seemed intriguing and complex, and ripe enough for a fine character study. However, across the movie’s two-and-a-half hour runtime, the story seems to lose focus. It moves at a snail’s pace, yet still somehow manages to go nowhere.
The performances leave much to be desired, primarily, a better script. Some of the actors worked incredibly well with what they were given, namely Jeffery Wright and Luke Wilson’s performances as Hobie and Larry respectively. They brought an explosively emotional energy to some of the film’s key parts. The rest of the cast, however, made me legitimately think that at any second, it would be revealed that all of these characters were secretly aliens in disguise. Most of the acting was stiff, stunted, and just plain odd at some points. Primarily Nicole Kidman’s completely monotone performance as Mrs. Barbour, Theo’s adopted mother; and Finn Wolfhard’s unusual and inconsistent accent as a Young Boris, Theo’s Russian childhood friend. Although, I’m certain that the unusually clunky dialogue in the script did these actors no favors.
One thing I enjoyed very much was the gorgeous cinematography. Roger Deakins has consistently been one of the best cinematographers for the past 40 years, and it especially shoes in “The Goldfinch.” It is one of the most visually stunning modern uses of the 4:3 aspect ratio since 2018’s “First Reformed.” Every shot looked like the elusive piece of art that this movie tries to be.
I can’t classify this as a terrible movie, yet I don’t consider this to be a good movie either. It’s just a movie! I didn’t feel in any way affected by this movie. Although, I left feeling a nagging sense that this could have been so much more. It’s a feeling that calls back to a scene in which Hobie describes the difference between real and fake antiques to a young Theo. A scene that describes the movie perfectly because, at the end of the day, this movie feels like a beautifully made copy of something much better.