The Goldfinch (2019)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB

USA, 2019, , Screenplay by , based on the novel by Cinematography by Produced by , Music by Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by Toronto International Film Festival 2019

A successful novel almost automatically guarantees the sale of movie rights, and there are too many examples on either side of the quality spectrum to make a summary of judgment of whether or not it is wise to adapt great literature to the screen; that said, it does unfortunately seem to be the case that Pulitzer prize-winners are often turned into passable movies (Beloved), mediocre ones (A Thousand Acres), with the odd exception of greatness (The Age of Innocence) and, in this case, something shockingly bad.  is awash in child actor pretensions as a young man whose life is forever changed by his surviving a terror incident at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that takes the life of his mother. With his ne’er-do-well father () nowhere to be found, he goes to live in the house of a school friend whose Park Avenue empress mother (Nicole Kidman) grows deeply fond of this lonely young man. Wilson ends up re-entering the scene with a brash new girlfriend (, who despite her talent can’t convince us that her trashy demeanor is anything but really great dress-up) and takes him to the barren suburbs of Las Vegas where he befriends a Ukrainian boy () whose father is abusive and with whom he begins an alarming drug and alcohol habit. Skip ahead some years and our hero is now grown up and played by a colourless , working as an antiques dealer back in New York City and haunted by memories of his mother, the bombing, and the item he took from the site of the incident that he has never told anyone about: a priceless painting by Carel Fabritius that he has kept hidden for reasons that even he can’t fathom. A few moments of dramatic poignancy at the beginning of this movie soon give way to mindless boredom as director John Crowley seems to have no idea what to do with this narrative except compile whatever incidents he can squeeze in from the book. The humour of such a painfully WASPy story, in which people’s violent deaths occur in museums and on sailboats and frosty women give children sleeping pills to comfort them in their grief, is lost on a filmmaking team that plays it painfully straight and aims for prestige over anything convincing (like, say, if he’d cast Juliette Lewis in Paulson’s role instead). Kidman’s talent elevates her few moments with her very sensitive performance, and there’s the pleasure of seeing do so much with a supporting role that never quite finds its footing, but neither are enough to combat the bland work being done by an otherwise incompetent cast; by the time you get to the last third of this overlong adventure, in which Elgort and an equally unconvincing as the grown Wolfhard go to Europe to deal with some shady men and settle the plot involving the painting, all patience has been overwhelmingly exhausted.

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