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Bestseller fails to fly on screen

Overall , The Goldfinch fails

Cameron Blackshaw

Cameron Blackshaw

newsdesk@newburynews.co.uk

Bestseller fails to fly on screen

Adaptation of Donna Tartt’s award-winning novel The Goldfinch is  bland, slow  and horribly bloated, says film reviewer CAMERON BLACKSHAW

DONNA Tartt’s 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Goldfinch spent more than 30 weeks on both the New York Times bestseller list in the US and The Sunday Times hardcover fiction bestseller list in the UK. The book seemed destined to receive an adaptation for the screen, but that should never have come to pass. Having never read the novel, I went into the film with no knowledge of the plot, but high expectations, given its success.

The Goldfinch follows the character of Theo Decker (played by Ansel Elgort and Oakes Fegley) throughout various stages of his life, following the death of his mother in a terrorist bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Theo’s only solace from the life-altering tragedy is the eponymous 1654 Dutch masterpiece that he steals from the rubble after surviving the attack.

We see Theo hide the painting when he moves in with the upper-class New York family of his friend Andy and then his estranged alcoholic father and bimbo girlfriend in Las Vegas. The film leaps about time, as we see an older Theo, then an antiques dealer in New York, continuing to conceal the famous painting from the world. The Goldfinch has an interesting premise for a sort of coming-of-age thriller. However, the film never capitalises on it.

The openingbombing and art theft made me eager to see how the plot would play out. I expected Theo to grow and develop into a man, despite the tragedy, at the same time becoming embroiled in a lifelong adventure involving the stolen art.
The film doesn’t wildly differ from that expectation, but it feels bland, slow and horribly bloated. We follow young Theo as he attempts to deal with his mother’s untimely death and adapt to new surroundings. The places he ends up in are typical and stale, especially his sleazy father’s house. Theo’s character is simply dull, with the plot providing little reason, besides our sympathy and pity, for us to root for him.

Some likeable characters are encountered along the way – such as the parental figures of Mrs Barbour (Nicole Kidman) and Hobie (Jeffrey Wright), as well as his sparky Ukrainian childhood friend Boris (played memorably by Finn Wolfhard and quite forgettably by Aneurin Barnard) – but none of them really make much of an impression on the sparse plot.
One of my biggest grievances is the two-and-a-half-hour runtime. The Goldfinch is a slow burner that never really arrives at its
destination.

But by far the most frustrating thing is The Goldfinch itself. You would expect, from the premise, promotional material and even the title, the painting to be the narrative’s driving force. However, it’s barely relevant until the final act and by that point its sudden importance feels undeserved. Theo’s motivation for keeping the stolen art is not revealed until the very end and by that point I was just too disinterested to care.

The film in its entirety has few saving graces – even Roger Deakins’ cinematography, which is often the best in the business, offers little in elevating the subpar narrative. Overall, The Goldfinch fails. I hope fans of the book aren’t disheartened, because I can’t see many unfamiliar with it eager to read a copy after watching this forgettable, incoherent piece of melodrama.

The Goldfinch (15)
Running time 2hr 29min
Rating: *

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