The Goldfinch Movie Review: Gold or Not?


The idea of adapting books into motion pictures has been a long age tradition in the film industry. It is a task that gives both the director and scriptwriters both joy and sleepless nights. When it is executed rightly, viewers leave the cinema hall with smiles plastered on their faces, but when the tricky adaptation fails woefully (and a lot of them do), it becomes one of the films where the popcorn was the saving grace.

Now let’s face the fact, many people never envisioned that the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Goldfinch” written by Donna Tartt was going to be adapted into a film. In fact, if there was a poll, people would expect Peter Straughan to do what the Game of Thrones guys did with the series of books “A Song of Ice and Fire” written by George R.R Martin. That is, adapting the book into television series, but that would be suicidal because even though the movie is interesting, it cannot have an irresistible grip on viewers because of the slower plot, fewer subplots and the absence of powerful figures such as Jon Snow who can keep viewers engaged season after seasons, year after years.

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The novel “Goldfinch” is over 900 pages and for some reasons, I had ignored adding the film adaptation among the films to watch in October because I wondered how possible it would be for the writers to condense such big novel into a film without losing some element of the story in the editorial chain. Well, I must have to admit that Peter Straughan did an excellent job with the script and John Crowley set a fine standard with his directing. But there were, of course, moments of weaknesses.

What is in “The Goldfinch”?

Betrayal, loss, heartbreak sums up what you will find in the movie as it was in the book. The film tells the story of a promising teenage boy Theo whose life was shattered by the loss of a mother through a terrorist bomb blast in a Metropolitan Museum of Arts in New York where they had gone to see a painting of the goldfinch. One moment of stark shock, he was encouraged to take the painting of the goldfinch by a dying man named Welty who visited the museum with his niece Pippa, a girl Theo had been exchanging eye contacts with just before the blast.

Theo left the museum broken save for the goldfinch painting in his armpit and a ring Welty gave him to deliver to his partner Hobie. He was immediately taken in by his friend’s family, the Barbors who treated him like a member of the family. However, when he thought that things were going to turn out all right, his deadbeat and alcoholic dad showed up with his girlfriend and bundled him to Lax Vegas where he met a Ukranian immigrant by the name Boris played by Finn Wolfhard as a teenager and Aneurin Barnard as an adult. Boris exposed him to teenage drinking and the use of substances. In the process he lost his father, unknowingly to him, he lost the goldfinch to Boris and he also lost Pippa to another man.

With the fear that his father’s mistress was going to put him in foster care, he returns to New York and became Hobie’s partner. He grapples with love, betrayal, and guilt.

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The movie was beautifully filmed and Theo and Boris came up with their individual best. The lights were great, the music was great, Boris’s sexuality was handled beautifully. Warner Bros. Pictures and RatPac Entertainment should get weak B for their Efforts.

The Goldfinch, the weaknesses

When people ask, can a film totally escape the critic’s hammer? The answer is no. There are hundreds of reasons why a critic can hate a film and there are thousands of critics. Sentiment is a powerful tool and every critic wears the apparel on them. “The Goldfinch” is a strong film but it has its moments were it failed to convince viewers that Theo Decker and Mrs. Barbour (played by Nicole Kidman) knew about antiques and paintings from the bland conversations they had in their reunion. Peter Straughan must have tried to play safe not to add too much foreign content in the script but Theo’s reunion with Mrs. Barbour is something that shouldn’t have happened if their conversation was going to be boring.

The characters of Mrs. Barbour, Hobie, and Kitsey didn’t impress me. The movie opening and scenes are already slow, bringing actors who couldn’t wear their characters as a second skin felt like a stab.

What about the rating?

There is a debate that films with CGI effects, explosions, and bloodshed are rated more highly than others. It is not always so. Every avid movie lover loves powerful dialogues. explosions may entertain you but dialogues make a movie memorable, gives you what to quote. The Goldfinch had its moments of sheer brilliance and moments when the characters were not bright and breezy.

I will also give John Cowley and Peter Straughan E for their efforts. I will give Roger Deakins the cinematographer who shot the film a C for getting his lights in close. Generally, I will give the movie 5/10.

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