The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch ★★

Perhaps the biggest problem with adapting a nearly 800 page book into a movie is that character is overwhelmed by plot necessity. One segment in this film sees four impossible coincides stacked back-to-back-to-back-to-back. It’s not the incompetence of the writer (Peter Straughan has written brilliantly before), rather it’s the necessity of checking off so many essential plot details in already near torturous 149 minute run time.

It has all the trappings of a prestige film: a fancy European director with Oscar pedigree, a well established writer, a cast that mixes annual awards contenders with trendy up-and-comers, and a genesis found in a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Terrorism! Great art! International intrigue! Lies that span generations! Unfortunately, the end result of that cocktail is almost ceaselessly dull. Ansel Elgort bores (I suspect more a result of the character than his talent). Nicole Kidman is on cruise control doing her usual schtick. The child actors are poorly directed and thus ineffective, aside from young Ryan Foust who manages to transcend the material. This is, of course, a picture that must span ERAS and thus we have multiple actors playing certain characters. It sort of boggles the mind that in a movie full of Oscar and Emmy winners that I found myself most gravitating towards Finn Wolfhard’s bonkers performance as a Russian emigre with an affection for narcotics. He’s basically doing a Bond movie accent but he brings life to the film’s most compelling segment (which sees our protagonist’s young form dragged to Nevada to live with his ne’er-do-well father).

I’d add as well that the last twenty or thirty minutes turn into a horrendously executed action movie. It’s jarring, off brand, and not at all interesting. 

At least it’s all beautifully filmed. 

I’ve not read the book. My wife loves the book and enjoyed the film more than I, though not all that much. Plan accordingly. 

2019: First to Worst

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