After surviving the bombing that killed his mother, the life of young Theo Decker spirals out of control. The trauma of his situation combined with a series of unstable homes leads to trouble with drugs and alcohol, and the only constant in his life is the priceless painting - of a Goldfinch - that he inexplicably stole from the scene of the bombing. Now grown up and working as an antiques dealer, Theo finds himself in trouble with a client to whom he sold a forgery. But what is it that the client wants in recompense?
Based on Donna Tartt's New York Times best-selling novel of the same name, The Goldfinch purports to be a tense and engrossing thriller about loss, survivor guilt, and moving on. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. It meanders through several periods in Theo's life - played by Oakes Fegley and Ansel Elgort - and never really seems to know where it's going. You'll sit there waiting for the movie to find a course, and for the entire two and a half hour runtime, it doesn't even come close. The Goldfinch's only saving grace is its beautiful cinematography, thanks to the legendary Roger Deakins. Deakins can take literally anything - an explosion, an empty swimming pool - and make it beautiful. As with every project the master cinematographer is attached to, The Goldfinch is magnificently shot. It's a shame then, that the story doesn't live up to these stunning visuals.
To make matters worse, Theo's world is filled with dull, uninteresting - and in many cases, despicable - characters, the only exception being the young Theo (Oakes Fegley) and his school friend Boris (Finn Wolfhard). Their friendship, built off of messed up childhoods, shared feelings of being outcast, and exploration of drug and alcohol abuse, is by far the best part of the story. It isn't however, enough to carry the entire movie. Even acting greats like Nicole Kidman, Jeffrey Wright, Luke Wilson and Sarah Paulson aren't able to bring life to these cold, bland characters. And it becomes increasingly difficult to care about them, as they slowly drift through this dull narrative.
The Goldfinch continually cuts back and forth through time, leaving us to wonder how the different pieces will come together. However, it's not until around the last 15 minutes that the tempo actually begins to pick up, as Theo is sent on a quest, and by then it's far too late. Any interest in Theo or the painting's eventual fate has inevitably been lost, and oddly enough for a two and a half hour movie, there's not enough time to explore this sudden turn of events. Leaving us with an ending that not only feels quite rushed, but also quite unfulfilling. In fact, we're never actually shown a proper ending. Instead, the movie closes with a conversation describing how events played out, and given what was talked about, it would have been much more interesting to see it...especially with Roger Deakins shooting it!
Despite a stellar cast and Roger Deakins awe-inspiring cinematography, The Goldfinch is a slog to get through. It slowly drags the audience through a dull story, one that doesn't really seem to go anywhere, and fails to deliver any kind of actual payoff in its conclusion.
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