Complete A-Z list

Goldfinch, The


Stars: Ansel Elgort, Oakes Fegley, Aneurin Barnard, Finn Wolfhard, Ashleigh Cummings, Willa Fitzgerald, Aimee Laurence, Sarah Paulson, Luke Wilson, Jeffrey Wright, Nicole Kidman, Denis O'Hare, Boyd Gaines

Director: John Crowley

Donna Tartt's internationally acclaimed 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel also won the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and spent more than 30 weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers List.

This overlong and underwhelming film version, scripted by Peter Straughan and blandly directed by John Crowley, manages to miss or fatally dilute the emotional scope and impact of the novel and as a result flopped at the US box-office.

At 149 minutes but feeling a lot longer, what we get is a good-looking but fatally shallow mock-Dickensian style melodrama which looks good (as befits a major studio movie) but never really succeeds in genuinely emotionally involving the viewer in its seemingly never-ending narrative.

The death of his mother in a terrorist bomb attack at New York's Metropolitan Museum changes 13-year-old Theo Decker's life forever. Confused by the disaster, Theo steals the priceless painting The Goldfinch, seeing it as the one tangible connection with his dead mother.

What follows is essentially an emotion-heavy, all too frequently psychologically implausible coming-of-age story, well-enough delivered as a youngster by Fegley as he bonds with wealthy Foust and especially with Foust's mother Kidman, doing her best in a largely pointless role.

Theo's life changes again when he goes to live with his father in Nevada where he is introduced to drugs and the high life by new friend, the Ukrainian Boris (Wolfhard, more embarrassing than credible) and the increasingly overwrought, under-convincing melodrama drags on and on, towards an over-stressed climax in Holland where the eponymous bird painting flies back into the wearisome narrative.

Everyone in front of the cameras, including Elgort as the grown-up Theo, works hard but in the final analysis are understandably defeated by the lumbering, overlong narrative. In the final analysis, The Goldfinch fatally fails to fly.

A film is a film. If you want to know The Goldfinch, I suggest you read the novel.

Alan Frank

USA 2019. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour.
148 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 2, Swearing 2.

Review date: 06 Oct 2019