Theodore Decker (Oakes Fegley, Ansel Elgort) was 13 years old when his mother was killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The tragedy changes the course of his life, sending him on a stirring odyssey of grief and guilt, reinvention and redemption, and even love. Through it all, he holds on to one tangible piece of hope from that terrible day — a painting of a tiny bird chained to its perch.
Plot: A boy in New York is taken in by a wealthy Upper East Side family after his mother is killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Director: John Crowley
Aspect Ratio: 1.85.1
Runtime: 149 min
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: A beautifully filmed yet mostly inert, The Goldfinch mishandles its source material, flattening a complex narrative into a largely un-involving disappointment.
“An emotionally moving film, even with its obvious flaws.”
Thirteen-year-old Theodore Decker’s mother is killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. In the aftermath of the bombing, Theo takes a painting, The Goldfinch, one of the few remaining paintings by Carel Fabritius and hides it at his apartment. Theo is then placed with the Barbours, the family of his estranged friend Andy, who he reconnects with and becomes close to his mother, Samantha Barbour.
After Samantha finds an engraved ring in Theo’s possession, he goes to visit the shop where it came from, Hobart & Blackwell. The shop is run by James “Hobie” Hobart, whose deceased partner Welton “Welty” Blackwell died in the bombing and gave Theo the ring to return. Theo begins to settle into life with the Barbours and is invited to go on vacation with them as Andy is hinting that his parents are considering adopting him. Before they can, Theo’s estranged and alcoholic father, Larry, newly detoxed, and his girlfriend Xandra arrive to reclaim Theo and relocate him to Las Vegas.
From there, Theo makes a friend, Boris, a Ukrainian immigrant whose father is physically abusive. Boris, who has also lost his mother, introduces Theo to drugs and alcohol. Theo’s father, sliding further into alcoholism and gambling unfortunately dies in a car accident in the midst of everything. Terrified that Xandra will place him in foster care, Theo decides to return to Hobie in New York, who allows him to live with him.
Eight years after Theo returns to New York City, he runs into Platt, Andy’s older brother. Platt informs Theo that his father was bipolar and that he and Andy were killed in a boating accident during one of his episodes. Theo goes to visit the now sickly Mrs. Barbour and reconnects with the family.
What happens next? You will need to watch the movie to watch it unfold.
Let me start out by acknowledging that The Goldfinch was one of this year’s highly anticipated movies for me — not because I read the book, but because of the masterfully crafted trailer. Before I saw this in theaters, I thought it would be put up for nominations when awards season arrived and it even had the potential of becoming, dare I say, a masterpiece. Unfortunately it wasn’t, and I’m going to have a hard time trying to explain my thoughts on it because I can’t seem to put my finger on the problem.
The acting from the talented cast (Oakes Fegley, Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, Jeffrey Wright & more) was well above par, the score was beautiful and the cinematography was picture perfect — it’s literally a work of art. So what’s wrong? Where am I going with this? I found myself slightly-bored more times than I’d like to admit because, at moments, the movie began to stall in some form or another. I can’t explain it, everything on paper should read masterpiece because all the pieces are there, but I felt disconnected from the characters at times — I wish I could explain it better… it would hold strong and then fade away, come back and then leave again.
While it may seem like I’m here to completely bury this movie, The Goldfinch was still emotional, touching and moving — but when it disconnected, it drew me out of the film. It was a very strange play of ‘tug of war.’ I’m not sure if it needed to be 20 minutes less to cut the fat I can’t locate, or if certain moments needed to be drawn out to have the viewer stay connected to the characters. This movie isn’t a masterpiece by any means, but it’s still worth your time because this two and half hour movie has plenty of moments that shine. It’s nowhere near as bad as the critical reviews are making out to be and you’ll see that in the audience’s reviews because plenty of people loved it and a lot of people, like myself, found themselves in the middle. You will see this in comparison literally by the numbers — critically it’s at 23%, while audience has it at 72%.
I recommend that you watch this and find out for yourself — like I said above, I believe it’s worth your time.
It’s already December 2nd and Black Friday just ended days ago, so it’s probably not on your mind or agenda to pick up a new movie at full price. I can’t give you straight answer, so The Goldfinch will land somewhere in the middle when it comes to a recommendation from me — while it definitely can hold a spot on your shelf, it may be better to rent and see if you’d ever be interested in watching it again, you could really love it or be completely indifferent about it. If you are interested, make sure you grab it at your local retailer when it releases on Blu-ray and DVD tomorrow, December 3rd.
Did you catch The Goldfinch in the theater? Were you a fan of this movie? Will you be picking it up to own? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
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