By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Four Beers) –
As a pre-teen, the young Theo Decker (Oakes Fegley) loses his mother in a terrorist bombing of an art museum. In the trauma of the moment he makes a decision to steal a painting that his mother and he were looking at shortly before the attack. Theo initially is sent to live with a friend of his mother’s Samantha (Nicole Kidman) and her family, until his absentee father (Luke Wilson) arrives to take him to Las Vegas where he befriends a Russian immigrant Boris (Finn Wolfhard). Years pass and the adult Theo (Ansel Elgort) is an antique dealer with an opiate addiction and racked with obsession and guilt about the painting that he stole all those years ago…
Don’t steal paintings: The incredibly obvious moral of the story.
Director John Crowley proved in Brooklyn that he has an eye for visual detail and getting emotionally real performances from his actors. To that degree The Goldfinch succeeds quite well. Roger Deakins is a master cinematographer and his work in this film is so solid that sometimes you almost forget that the rest of the movie is cold and lifeless.
The individual performances are mostly solid, particularly Oakes Fegley and Finn Wolfhard, who as young adult actors seem remarkably confident in conveying their characters’ emotions. Almost more-so than their older counterparts. Though I don’t want to criticize Ansel Elgort and Aneurin Barnard (who plays the older Boris) too hard, because I suspect the majority of the film’s failings are due to the inconsistent script. But when their characters are shown as adults, it is as if they are completely different characters. Elgort has got to learn to control his stink-face expressions, though, because they’re getting out of hand. He always looks like someone just beefed in the room and he’s trying to find out who ate rotten eggs for breakfast.
The movie has an obsession with antiques and old things, and while that isn’t a bad thing in itself, it feels like the screenwriter pulled that thematic element from the source novel and chose to run with it as a constant fall-back to character development. Rather than learn more about the motivations of the characters, we learn what they know about artists and artisans. I’ll watch a PBS documentary about Shaker Furniture if I want to know about the craft that went into a chair thank-you-very-much.
Ultimately the film’s biggest failing is in pacing. It becomes clear very early on that the story isn’t headed in a coherent direction, just ambling from scene to scene. And there are many compelling scenes in this film, which is what makes it all the more tragic that none of them help add it all up to a greater whole.
STIN…. nope… no this time it was me.
For a movie with such solid cinematography and compelling performances, the directionless script results in a long and winding slog.
The Goldfinch (2019) Movie Review
Take a Drink: whenever the painting is referenced.
Take a Drink: for talk about antiques
Take a Drink: for flashbacks/flash-forwards
Do a Shot: for droning narration