Some novels are best left untouched and never adapted, which is certainly the case with The Goldfinch. Based on the much-beloved novel by Donna Tartt, the film adaptation has really strong pedigree, with a screenplay by Peter Straughan (co-writer of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Frank), directed by John Crowley (director of Brooklyn), and starring solid actors such as Ansel Elgort, Jeffrey Wright, Sarah Paulson, and Nicole Kidman. So, how is it that a film with this much talent behind it would result in something that is just plain boring?
The film presents a story that flashes backward and forwards, focusing on one character who’s stricken with grief following the death of his mother, which he blames himself for. We see him as a boy, he’s being taken in by different families, resulting in different situations, while also fixating on this painting, a sort of a symbol of everything he’s loved and lost supposedly. All the way through, we’re supposed to care about him and the journey he’s going on, but to this reviewer, there was zero emotional investment, leaving us with a cold, uninvolving experience.
All the characters never feel like people, coming off more like ciphers in service of the plot, so you never really understand who these people are and why we should care about them to begin with. Even when an emotional scene is happening the emotions are never felt, which isn’t helped by the film’s incredibly slow pace. The film is nearly two-and-a-half hours long and you can feel it throughout; it’s so sluggishly paced that you’ll keep checking your watch just to see when it’ll all be over, which is a shame since there merits to be found on a technical level alone. The score by Trevor Gureckis is pretty solid, Roger Deakins’ cinematography is great as always and the production design is impressive enough, but all these components aren’t enough to give this film the injection of life it needed.
Just like The Aftermath, a film that also came in 2019, The Goldfinch is an emotionally cold and inert movie-viewing experience, proving that sometimes book translations can prove to be disappointing when placed in the wrong hands, and this is certainly the case as shown by the film’s disastrous box office results. After the spectacular heights of Brooklyn, one hoped that John Crowley would pull it out of the bag once again, but alas, The Goldfinch just ends up being another disappointing entry from 2019.
Dir: John Crowley
Scr: Peter Straughan
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Oakes Fegley, Aneurin Barnard, Finn Wolfhard, Sarah Paulson, Luke Wilson, Jeffrey Wright, Nicole Kidman
Prd: Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson
DoP: Rodger Deakins
Music: Trevor Gureckis
Runtime: 149 mins
The Goldfinch is out on DVD on January 20th.