On paper, you have a recipe for success in The Goldfinch. A Pulitzer Prize winning book, a sizable cast and at its core, a seemingly powerful human story. My first thoughts on the trailer were that much like its decorated source material, this film looked as though it was going for the gold. I have to admit I was even moved by the potentially powerful story it could tell, and though I had never read the book, I felt I could connect to it someway. It got even better when I found out Roger Deakins was the cinematographer, the mastermind behind many masterful visuals in cinema. So, imagine my surprise when my hopes came crashing down on me by the boulder that was tedious boredom.
Out of respect, I will let this film see its day in court by first drawing on the advantage of having an award-winning book as its source material. Even though there is an abundance of different people in The Goldfinch making it a challenge to latch onto them, there were characters that made it simple enough. The first and obvious one is our lead character Theo (Oakes Fegley & Ansel Elgort). We witness Theo trying to make peace in his traumatized life and the secret he is holding is the most compelling part of the story because it acts as a sort of timebomb that we are constantly wondering when it will go off. You also have Hobie (Jeffery Wright) an antiques trader and mentor to Hugo. What’s different about Hobie’s appeal is in the performance, not the character. I wouldn’t mind having Jeffery Wright as my mentor because he has the right amount of sternness and positive influence in his performance. Theo’s close Ukrainian friend Boris (Aneurin Barnard & Finn Wolfhard) is also very likable, just as long as you can learn to get past the obvious put-on accent.
For a moment let’s move away from the book and mention the man that got me excited for this film. If you know your cinematographers, then Rodger Deakins will be up there with the highest expectations, and he delivers with his encyclopedic knowledge of framing and lighting. He may not be in a story that can stretch his creativity like he did in Blade Runner 2049, but for brief moments, he pulls off amazing composition and uses the environment in the world of the film to make scenes more visually impressive.
Unfortunately, not even the talent can elevate this film to higher grounds because after the first half-hour of the film, I had given up on any hope for a crumb of drama. I’m seeing this become a more common occurrence in film nowadays, The Goldfinch is constantly trying to convince you that what your seeing is something deeply profound and story changing for the characters, but that level is never reached to the audience and instead you get so bored of what you’re seeing you ultimately end up not caring at all.
Honestly, The Goldfinch is really easy to be bored by, partially due to how slow the narrative seems to progress. Even after a third of the film, I had already found plenty of scenes that could have been cut because there’s little to no purpose for them to be included. Theo’s main secret is the driving force behind the film and the film shows you some potential foreshadowing to which direction the film may go or deviate from the novel in a way that doesn’t jeopardize the novel. However, it never goes there, I haven’t read the book, but I could tell that the people behind The Goldfinch wanted to stay close to the novel but ended up being too close. A little change is fine as long as it doesn’t get out of hand.
To me, I feel that The Goldfinch doesn’t belong on the big screen. The film was produced by Amazon studio, which when I learned, immediately got me thinking how The Goldfinch could have greatly benefited if it were an episodic Amazon Prime exclusive. The pacing would have been more understandable and the major dramatic changes in the story would be felt more.
I think the filmmakers behind The Goldfinch have learned a valuable lesson. Just because you have an award-winning book to base a film on, doesn’t mean that you also have an award-winning film. Aside from some decent performances and great cinematography, it’s impossible to not feel the story may be getting ahead of itself. We all crave film adaptations that stay true to its source material, but we also want to see talented filmmakers to interpret it in their own ways. If you have nothing different to put on the table, you’ll never have the attention from audiences. In the end, The Goldfinch was a very big let-down and now has made me more cautious than I already was about getting excited about a successful looking film.
Final Result: 2/10 – Very Poor
Have you seen The Goldfinch? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Joker