The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch

In Theatres: 
Sep 13, 2019
Running Time: 
149 minutes

I have not read the supposedly wonderful novel The Goldfinch so I went into its film adaptation completely blind to its overall story, whose plot I only knew revolves around the titular painting which goes missing after a museum explosion. It sounds intriguing enough, but my patience wore thin as the film drags on and on without really going anywhere. There are so many different stories that are weaved together, and only one though kept returning to the forefront of my mind; “why?” The Goldfinch is a bloated film that ultimately says little about any of its characters; it’s a two and a half hour time void that will have you wondering what you’ve just watched and nothing else.


When Theo Decker (Oakes Fegley) was 13 years old he was caught in an explosion at the museum that killed his mother. Amid the chaos, he takes a painting of a goldfinch, which leads him on a lifelong journey full of drugs, art, and antiques. Haunted by this trauma, a now adult Theo (Ansel Elgort) struggles to find his place in this world and it all comes back to this single painting.


The Goldfinch is like watching a puzzle be put together but have no idea what the finished picture is supposed to be. Oh, and there are also random pieces from other puzzles thrown into the mix to just confuse you. For starters, the story constantly jumps from young Theo to older Theo, and even within each of those ages it continues to jump back and forth between different moments. It’s confusing at first, especially to someone like myself who isn’t familiar with the novel, and it never fully stops being confusing. I kept waiting for that moment where things would start to make sense, for that big reveal that puts everything in perspective, but it never came. There was only confusion.


Much of the film’s focus is placed upon the relationship between Theo and Pippa (Aimee Laurence/Ashleigh Cummings), a girl who was also there at the museum when the explosion happened and lost someone close to her as well. As an adult, Theo has a deep infatuation with her and believes that she’s the one he should be with, but the film does a terrible job at showing their relationship. They share only a handful of scenes together as kids and the film fails to establish Theo’s love for her so there’s no reason for me to believe that he would be so attached to her as an adult. There’s also the subplot where Theo goes off to the desert to live with his deadbeat father where he meets his best friend Borris (Finn Wolfhard/Aneurin Barnard). They have a more interesting relationship together than Theo and Pippa but with so much story to tell the film still struggles to give it any justice.


That’s how the entirety of The Goldfinch feels; there are the makings of something interesting but it never has the time to develop into anything more than just those beginnings because there’s so much ground to cover. As a result, the film is an uneven mess that struggles to say anything meaningful. I’ve heard nothing but praise for the novel so I know there’s a good story to be told. It’s a shame the film can’t adequately do its source material justice.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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