The Goldfinch, John Crowley’s adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Donna Tartt, has received overwhelmingly negative reviews following its debut at Toronto International Film Festival. The film stars Ansel Elgort as Theo Decker, a young man who was taken in by his friend’s family after his mother was killed in a terrorist bombing at an art museum. Amid the chaos, young Theo stole a copy of Carel Fabritius’ painting The Goldfinch, and the valuable artwork becomes the centerpiece of the story as it unfolds.
On paper, The Goldfinch looked like it was bound to be an Oscars darling. Crowley’s last film, Brooklyn, received rave reviews and three Academy Award nominations, and The Goldfinch‘s excellent cast includes Nicole Kidman, Sarah Paulson, Jeffrey Wright, Finn Wolfhard and Aneurin Barnard. However, after premiering at TIFF ahead of its wide release this weekend, The Goldfinch was met with near-universal disappointment from critics.
The general consensus is that The Goldfinch (which was scripted by Peter Straughan, who also wrote the screenplay for widely-mocked crime drama The Snowman) is a poor adaptation of its source material that struggles with the weight of its story. The film has found a few fans among the critic crowd, but currently has a score of just 26% on Rotten Tomatoes. Here’s a sampling of what the critics had to say.
“In case you haven’t had enough of bloated, self-important bores, I give you The Goldfinch… The film is like a Harry Potter movie without the magic, unless you count opiate snorting as dark arts.”
“There are ideas at work here, about providence and salvation (or at least their secular counterparts, coincidence and rescue), about civilization and the worthwhile work of preserving it, and about defining moments and our response to them. But there isn’t much of a movie.”
“Straughan appears to be adapting the Cliff’s Notes version of the book instead of the book itself, producing an unplayable series of scene snippets. The timeline is borderline random, leaving the chronology in a chaotic jumble that defies reason.”
“There’s a lot of art and culture blahdy-blah in this film, but the way it’s discussed is cold and lifeless, like a bad NPR audition. Remember when Glenn Close passionately rhapsodized about literature in The Wife with great conviction? Here you don’t believe for a second that any of these actors know squat about paintings.”
“Like those dodgy antiques — “changelings,” as their maker supposedly calls them — this film is inauthentic without being completely fake. It looks and sounds like a movie without quite being one. It’s more like a Pinterest page or a piece of fan art, the record of an enthusiasm that is, to the outside observer, indistinguishable from confusion.”
Based on these reviews, it seems like The Goldfinch‘s biggest struggle was in condensing Tartt’s novel (which is almost 800 pages long) into a feature-length movie, with the result being a rush through plot points that doesn’t give the audience any time to absorb what’s happening. One aspect of The Goldfinch that, unsurprisingly, received near-universal praise was Roger Deakins’ cinematography, and Deakins seems likely to pick up another Oscar nomination even if the film receives no other accolades. However, some critics were won over by more than just The Goldfinch being pretty to look at.
“While the result is not flawless, this is a polished, impressive attempt that pays off in the end. It may take awhile to get there, but its themes of loss, longing, heartache and betrayal, not to mention the nature and value of beautiful objects, do ultimately move us.”
“Calling the movie a noble failure doesn’t feel entirely fair; it’s sort of a fascinating one, too, and genuinely engaging for long stretches, with a handful of beautiful performances and gorgeously framed cinematography by Oscar winner Roger Deakins… The Goldfinch feels like more than the sum of its disparate parts; a painting in the wrong frame, maybe, but one whose imperfect beauty still draws you in.”
“It’s neither a rousing success nor an embarrassing failure, falling somewhere in between, closer to admirable attempt. Most importantly, it’s nowhere near the ungainly mess some had expected, its many, many moving parts stitched together with an elegant hand.”
The Goldfinch is now in theaters, so if you’ve seen it then let us know in the comments if you agree with the critics’ consensus, or you feel the film has been too harshly judged.
Source: Screen Rant