HOLLYWOOD—I cannot recall the last time I was so bored and ready for a movie to end in recent years. I’m not calling it the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but “The Goldfinch” is a jumbled mess that I could not wait and I mean wait for this drama to end. The film is an adaptation of the popular novel by Donna Tartt. This drama has a talented cast including Nicole Kidman, Sarah Paulson, Jeffrey Wright, Denis O’Hare and Ansel Elgort. Elgort stars as Theodore ‘Theo’ Decker, whose world is turned upside down after his mother is killed during a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when he was 13.
That incident leaves Theo orphaned, as his alcoholic and estranged father, Larry (Luke Wilson) has no interest in caring for his son, at least not at the time of his mother’s passing. Theo is taken in by the Barbour family of courtesy of his pal Andy, who are wealthy to say the least. Kidman does her best delivering an icy persona of a mother, caring for a child that isn’t hers at the encouragement of her son. Samantha (Kidman) pushes Theo to pursue his interest in the arts, which plays an important role in his career as an adult.
At the core of this story is ‘The Goldfinch,’ a popular painting that Theo stole from the museum after the bombing transpired. To make a long story short Theo has endured a tough childhood; losing a parent, being taken in by a family that he doesn’t know, feeling abandoned by his father, dealing with drug abuse, fear of being alone, the list goes on and on. Elgort does a respectable job with the material, but “The Goldfinch” makes its biggest error attempting to weave a ton of webs into one, where certain things just don’t mesh or provide to the story.
I mean we have Theo’s complicated love life where he is engaged to marry a woman he doesn’t love because he wants to please his adopted mother who has been so good to him. At the same time, he’s constantly thinking about the ‘one’ who got away who has his undying love. It feels out of place, because the script didn’t flesh that subplot out enough to make it stick or make clear sense to the viewer.
There is also the complicated backstory involving Theo’s pal Boris (Finn Wolfhard), who he bonded with after being ripped from his new family by his father Larry and his girlfriend Xandra (Paulson). That storyline only serves the purpose of explaining Theo’s complicated behavior. This all goes back to Theo’s penance for passing off authentic pieces of art that are actual fakes, which he gets busted for and makes it a mission of his to recover that painting from his childhood that has controlled his life.
“The Goldfinch” had the potential to be an invigorating piece of cinema, but got too caught up in a variety of details in the narrative that don’t’ successfully bring everything together in a seamless swoop to make the audience care.