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  • Writer's pictureKaveh Jalinous

The Goldfinch (2019): Film Review

When the trailer for The Goldfinch finally came out, I simply could not contain my excitement. Being a mega-fan of Donna Tartt's almost 800 page spanning novel, I simply could not wait for the story of Theodore Decker to hit the silver screen, although I was a bit worried about how the film crew and screenwriter would manage to shrink a story so complex and ever-expanding into something much smaller. Then, the film premiered at TIFF, and the reviews finally came out. Slowly, my dream began to shatter as a plethora of reviews were published on to respective film sites, absolutely panning pretty much everything about my most anticipated film of the 2019 calendar year. It seemed like the crew got everything wrong (except the cinematography master himself, Roger Deakins), and that the film was doomed. Regardless, I simply couldn't contain my excitement leading up to the film. I had a feeling that I would like it, I just didn't know how much. The answer: The Goldfinch is a bit of a mess, but it seems to embody some aspects of its base novel in a respective manner. But it isn't without its issues. The Goldfinch tells the story of Theodore Decker, who loses his mother in a tragic terrorist bombing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Upon waking up amidst ashes and rubble, Theo is bombarded by a man named "Blackwell", who on the brink of death, instructs him to take both a ring of his and the infamous "Goldfinch" painting away. Thus sets the tale of Theo's life, where we meet new people, reconcile with old friends, and really get an insight into how the bombing derailed every single aspect of Theodore's life, involving alcohol, drugs, and the loss of childhood innocence. The tale is both horrifying and grueling. But it just isn't told correctly. The biggest issue with The Goldfinch is the fact that it doesn't take advantage of the brilliantly written novel it's based off of, instead using Tartt's book as a way to connect lightened-up events that seem jumbled together when presented in the format of an 149 minute long film. The screenplay seems to have chosen its favourite of the hundreds of events that happen in the book, reducing them to nothing but futile moments that barely possess any depth and don't really depict how much the bombing altered Theo's life. On top of this, the film doesn't take a linear path like the novel, so the events that take at the museum are sprinkled throughout various moments in the movie, making it extremely confusing for the viewer to see a visual cue into the attack, and it's aftereffects, both physically and mentally. Instead, the viewer is thrown around between adult Theo's story-line and young Theo's story-line at a violent pace, unnecessarily making the film just a little bit more confusing. Regardless of the plot's main flaws, I thought each of the actors was decently well cast, aside from Finn Wolfhard's "interesting" accent behind Theo's best friend Boris. Ansel Elgort does a fine job, although he doesn't really have a lot of significant moments in the story, and young Oakes Fegley does a fantastic job of playing young Theo, as he was able to truly capture (some) of the moment that the protagonist was feeling after the attack. All in all, even with my bias because of how much I love the book, The Goldfinch is simply fine - although a severe disappointment - and has too little depth to function as an accurate representation of the book. As a miniseries, Tartt's novel would have been captured perfectly, but as a nearly two and a half hour film, it just isn't deep enough.


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