Making a movie adaptation of a novel is a hit-or-miss endeavor.
If done right, a movie adaptation will not only do the novel justice, but also stand on its own as a cinematic masterpiece. If done wrong, however, it could crash and burn, and feel like a waste of time and money. On paper, the movie adaptation of The Goldfinch looked like it had everything going for it. The novel the movie was based on was well-received and even won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The movie’s director, John Crowley, had already proven himself that he could make great films as evidenced by his 2015 critical hit, Brooklyn. The cast was filled with star-studded and talented actors like Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, and Jeffrey Wright. Sadly, the end product is not the great film that it should have been. There was a lot of potential behind this film but couldn’t live up to the hype and fell flat as a result.
The film follows Theo Decker as he tries to restart his life after surviving a bombing at a museum, which resulted in his mother’s death. Theo first moves in with his best friend’s wealthy family. After a while, he transfers with his dad to Las Vegas. The film shifts between two storylines: Theo when he was younger after the bombing, and Theo as an adult.
Between the two storylines, the storyline following the younger Theo was better than the present-day Theo.
The young Theo storyline is more cohesive, engaging, and fun as compared to the other older one. When the audience follows young Theo, they get to see just how sad his life is which shapes who he becomes as an adult. He has his ups and downs which the film takes its time to show.
This part of the film is the most enjoyable part of the movie; it’s sad, funny, entertaining, and enlightening. When the film shifts to Theo as an adult however, the cohesion gets lost and feels more like a sequence of events rather than a story. Some plot points discussed during the first half of the movie are brought up, but others are left forgotten or not explored enough. There are parts of the film, especially in the latter half, where it can get boring and a bit draggy. The fun of the younger Theo storyline is completely lost when the movie reaches the present day.
A good thing about The Goldfinch though is that it features a good cast.
From Nicole Kidman to Luke Wilson, the cast does their roles well. At the front of the movie is Ansel Elgort who plays adult Theo. For the most part, he does a good job. There are times where he can come off as one-note and not really show a lot of emotion. This may be due to how the character grew up, but it would have been nice to see Ansel express more. He isn’t the best leading man, but for the most part, he does the role well.
The real stars from the cast, however, are Sarah Paulson and Finn Wolfhard, who play small but significant roles. Sarah Paulson plays Xandra, Theo’s dad’s girlfriend who is a bartender in a club in Las Vegas. Sarah Paulson had already proven in the past that she can get into a character and Xandra is no exception. In almost every scene she was in, Sarah would be a scene-stealer because of how well she plays the role. She isn’t in the film for long, but she makes the most of her screen time.
Finn Wolfhard plays young Boris, the son of a Ukrainian immigrant who befriends Theo. Finn speaks with a full-on Russian accent and it’s done nicely. Even though Finn is American, he plays Boris as if he is from Ukraine. This performance is a departure from the roles he is known for like Stranger Things and It, but it suits him. He has the range and talent to pull it off.
In the end, The Goldfinch had a lot of potential, but the end results were disappointing.
At times, the film was quite good and there were moments where it shined through. The film sadly gets bogged down by a story that can get long and boring especially in the latter half. While the film tries to make the audience want to know what happens in the end, the execution was dragging.
One of the biggest mistakes the movie makes is that it tries to build up to something grand and exciting in its finale, but it lands with a thud. As a result, there is little pay-off in the end.
The Goldfinch shows the potential of a great film but overall couldn’t reach the heights it set to reach.