The Goldfinch Review

Cast: Ansel Elgort, Aneurin Barnard, Nicole Kidman, Sarah Paulson

Director: John Crowley

Review:

Well, we all know it’s really Oscar season when the first dud of the season comes out.  Every year there’s a handful of movies that give it their best effort to try to clean up awards but that end up underwhelming more than anything.  The Goldfinch decided that movie would come out sooner rather than later and took the time to bomb in September instead of waiting until December.  While it is a well-made film from a technical standpoint, the underwhelming story and performances derail what could’ve been a true contender and ended up making a huge flop instead.

The film follows Theo Decker (Elgort), a man who lost his mother to a terrorist attack at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  During the aftermath of the attack, a young Theo (Oakes Fegley) steals The Goldfinch, a priceless painting by Carel Fabritius and keeps it hidden during his life.  As he grows up with his negligent father Larry (Luke Wilson) and his cocktail-waitress girlfriend Xandra (Paulson) in Las Vegas, Theo copes with his pain by abusing drugs and getting into mischief.  When these habits continue into his adult life, the consequences of stealing The Goldfinch finally come to a head and Theo must figure out a way to get his life back in order.  The main issue about The Goldfinch is that it has no clear idea what it wants to be.  Is this an art heist movie?  Is it a drug abuse movie?  Is it a story about familial abuse and how we find love in the world?  The Goldfinch manages to be all of those and none of those things at the same time, which is truly a remarkable feat.  For a role like this, Elgort seems very out-of-place and lacks the charisma needed to handle a complex role.  Of all the young critically acclaimed actors who’ve become critically successful in the last five years, Elgort is the one who still needed a masterful performance to stand out in that group, but unfortunately that isn’t the case in this movie.  I don’t know if it’s because the script is adapted so poorly or if Elgort just can’t handle a multi-dimensional role, but Elgort really needs to be in something special next year if he wants to stay on the same wave as his peers.  The story is much more interested and well performed when it revolves are Fegley, which is a testament to how well this young actor handles such a serious performance.  Fegley accurately portrays how almost any child would handle this trauma in their lives and shows that he has a lot of potential to break out in the next few years.  Outside of the acting and story, The Goldfinch has way too much talent wasted on a disorganized and underperforming story.  When you have Roger Deakins behind the camera and an acclaimed actress like Kidman in a supporting role, you have a guarantee for at least a little bit of success which The Goldfinch finds with its beautiful cinematography, score, and editing.  While the film is great from a technical perspective, I certainly would’ve liked to have seen more out of Kidman considering how talented she is, but with how much of a mess the rest of the movie was, it’s probably a good thing we didn’t see her more.  The Goldfinch had all the makings of a major awards contender but it’s inability to find an angle and go with it holds the movie back and caused it to become the flop that it is.

Overall, The Goldfinch is going to be remembered as this year’s Welcome to Marwen, a movie that almost all of the right pieces to succeed but can’t put it together into something coherent.  This is a shame considering Crowley’s work on Brooklyn in the past and I thought we would be getting another critically acclaimed movie here, but The Goldfinch is just too mismanaged and confusing to become something special.

Overall Score: 3.5/10

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