The Goldfinch Review

The Goldfinch

Hollywood adaptations of critically acclaimed books are nothing new. It’s been around since the early days of the motion picture. So it’s no surprise that Hollywood would try to adapt the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Goldfinch. But is The Goldfinch cinematic adaptation a worthy one or is it too difficult a book to adapt on screen.

Unfortunately, The Goldfinch is a film that fails to create a film that coherently tells the story of Theo and the Goldfinch painting. The film doesn’t even know what kind of film it’s supposed to be.

The Goldfinch follows Theodore Decker, a survivor of a bombing attack and the impact that this one event has on the rest of his life.

The Goldfinch - Nicole Kidman and Ansel Elgort

Even though it’s based on a book (that I admittedly haven’t read), it makes you wonder whether or not major details were cut from the book or if it wanted to do something different to keep it unpredictable for the book readers. That’s because the film feels like it’s missing critical plotlines essential to the overall storyline. It doesn’t know whether it wants to be a film about PTSD, a coming-of-age story, or a suspense mystery.

Whatever the case may be, the film jumps timelines several times in a jarring way. The entire film feels like chapters in a book. The past introduces characters that play a role in Theo’s life then the present scenes show these characters as adults. However, these “chapters” in his life never really connect seamlessly. So they jump from one to the next without any bit of flow at all.

At the same time, Theo’s long drawn out story about his life doesn’t go anywhere. It’s crazy since it’s full of storylines that tell a soulless story. Not to mention, these storylines are messily strewn together too.

The Goldfinch - Oakes Fegley

Yes, The Goldfinch is a mish-mash of so many things. It tries to play for the elitist film crowd but fails to even do that. It’s not an artistic masterpiece that it thinks it is. Yes, the entire film is beautiful—thanks to the always amazing cinematography by Roger Deakins. But for us regular moviegoers, the entire film is pretentious—with both its presentation and dialogue.

At the same time, the characters themselves are completely unrelatable and unlikeable. If we, as an audience, we’re to sympathize with Theo, the filmmakers do a terrible job doing that too. You just don’t like the actions he does as a kid. All of his actions are made to seem like they’re a symptom of his guilt and PTSD. Instead, it simply feels like rich people problems disguised as PTSD.

Nevertheless, the film does make Theo sympathetic as an adult. Love is the single important thing a human being needs. So you feel for the guy when the people that are closest to him start to disappear one by one. It’s a bit sad and that’s largely due to Ansel Elgort’s performance. He’s naturally a charismatic actor, so getting us to sympathize with him is easy. Yet he also shows us a lot of emotion and pain that you don’t get with Oakes Fegley. By comparison, Fegley comes off as a huge whiny brat.

Overall, The Goldfinch is a disappointing film about how the effects of PTSD affects people. Now, that may not be the entire premise of the book, but the film is so messy and tonally off that non-book readers may not know what it’s about unless we read the book.

Rating 2/5 atoms

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1507 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.