December 2, 2019  (Web Review)

The Goldfinch

Warner, 149 min., R, DVD: $28.99, Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $38.99, Dec. 3

Reviewer rating: 2.0/4

John Crowley’s adaptation of Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2014 novel is ambitious and elegantly made, but also a hopelessly shallow and confused reflection of the book. The film is basically the fraught coming-of-age tale of Theodore (Oakes Fegley), whose life is shattered when his mother is killed in a terrorist explosion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The boy survives, secretly carrying off a small painting—Carel Fabritius’s titular 1654 portrait of a bird chained to a golden bar—which he wraps in newspaper and obsessively cherishes as a reminder of his mother. Theo is temporarily taken in by the Barbours, a wealthy family headed by Samantha (Nicole Kidman), but his scheming, long-absent father Larry (Luke Wilson) whisks him away to Nevada, where he befriends a wild Ukrainian classmate named Boris (Finn Wolfhard). Theo eventually runs away, taking the painting with him, and returns to New York, where he becomes the ward of Hobie (Jeffrey Wright), a soft-spoken restorer at an antique shop, who grooms Theo (now played by Ansel Elgort) as his assistant. Theo reconnects, rather implausibly, with not only the Balbours, but also Boris, who is involved in the Big Apple drug trade and reveals something about Theo’s painting that ultimately takes both of them to Europe for an encounter with dangerous dealers in stolen artwork. The complicated narrative combines intimacy with themes about the power of art and irresistible fate, but despite an excellent cast, this long, emotionally remote film never takes wing. Optional. [Note: DVD/Blu-ray extras include “The Real Goldfinch” behind-the-scenes featurette (9 min.). Exclusive to the Blu-ray release are deleted scenes with commentary by director John Crowley (17 min.), “The Goldfinch Unbound” production featurette (13 min.), and a bonus digital copy of the film. Bottom line: a solid extras package for a disappointing adaptation of Tartt’s bestselling novel.] (F. Swietek)