The Goldfinch movie review: Stellar supporting cast is wasted in a film short on logic and a strong narrative

Mihir Fadnavis

Sep 20, 2019 16:44:39 IST


The Goldfinch is dripping with sentimentality, twee visuals and ponderous emotive pull, but is short on logic, a strong narrative and believability. It’s the kind of movie that is based on interesting source material but struggles to maintain quality control while translating to the big screen. 

Based on the 2013 book of the same name, the film introduces us to Theo (Ansel Elgort) and his younger self (Oakes Fegley) whose stories intersect at a painting, and through vignettes we learn how he managed to find himself in a precarious position in Amsterdam. The story then takes a surprisingly complex turn with an assortment of tragedies that shape Theo’s life and the numerous people who build and break him. 

 The Goldfinch movie review: Stellar supporting cast is wasted in a film short on logic and a strong narrative

Still from the Goldfinch trailer. YouTube screengrab

The first thing you’ll notice is how hard the film tries to win you over with its saccharine mood – it works against the film firstly because Elgort is miscast in the role here, he does not seem to be fully present in a film bursting with so many tragic threads. Moreover the director John Crowley attempts to fill in the logical gaps with an elegiac method of bridging the past and the present, although the message of how everything happens for a reason lands as a belly flop. There are only so many moments of young kids whose innocence is stripped away one can take, and it quickly becomes obvious that this is just manipulative cinema instead of thought provoking fare that it wants to be. 

Fans of Roger Deakins might find the lush visuals easy to digest but all the showy cinematography is in servitude of a narrative that makes surface level explorations of its themes. It leads to a climax that is shockingly maladroit, and it makes you wonder if the book also had the same ending, and how the execution in prose could have been better.

There’s no shortage of ambition, of course, and its supporting cast of Nicole Kidman, Jeffery Wright, Sarah Paulson, Luke Wilson and Finn Wolfhard from It and Stranger Things definitely punch above the story’s weight. It’s a pity that all these characters are profoundly vacant in agency, and the thriller-style third act only makes things worse. And at no point is one convinced that these are living, breathing characters because their treatment in all the implausible situations in the story seems caricaturist. 

This is textbook messy filmmaking, and the two and a half hour runtime is just too much to take in. With themes ranging from terrorism, teenagers doing drugs, estranged parents, toxic relationships, and child abuse, this could have been an interesting film in the realm of HBO’s Euphoria. Instead this becomes a companion piece to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – and if you ever find yourselves in the mood to test the limits of your patience, you should fire up both these film’s dvds one after the other. Oddly both those films have Jeffery Wright playing similar characters. 

Updated Date: Sep 20, 2019 16:44:39 IST