TIFF Review: ‘The Goldfinch’ Is a Long Drama That Skimps on the Drama

The Goldfinch directed by John Crowley follows a boy named Theo (Oakes Fegley) whose life is rocked from surviving the bombing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He stays with the Upper East Side Barbour family right after the event because he is close to their son, Andy (Ryan Foust.) We also see Theo later in life played by Ansel Elgort.

Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Barbour and Ansel Elgort as Theodore Decker in 'The Goldfinch'
Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Barbour and Ansel Elgort as Theodore Decker in ‘The Goldfinch’ Courtesy of TIFF

This is an adaptation of the novel written by Donna Tartt. It won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and the book itself is a long one. I personally haven’t read it but what I’ve heard from those who did is that the book is like the movie in that it’s long, filled with many characters, and really takes its time to move through Theo’s life.

Sadly, a lot of drama in the story doesn’t make it onto the screen

The almost 3-hour movie adaptation is filled with visually beautiful shots of characters looking at art, antiques, and taking in the landscape around them. Sadly, a lot of drama in the story doesn’t make it onto the screen like the objects and scenery.

When the story finally picks up there are big moments that happen off the screen and are simply told to Theo. This makes the climax feel rushed after a long wait. It was hard to not feel cheated by this.

Nicole Kidman does another great job playing Mrs. Barbour, who is drawn to Theo due to their shared love of art. She manages to have great chemistry with both Fegley and Elgort to see that relationship through. The same thing can be said for Jeffrey Wright who plays Hobie, a man who restores antiques and takes Theo under his wing.

The movie relies heavily on Fegley

The movie relies heavily on Fegley and he plays a guilt-ridden boy well. His time with Stranger Things star, Finn Wolfhard is the best part of the movie.

If you’re a fan of the Baby Driver star, then you might be disappointed by the amount of time he’s in the movie. When he is around it’s hard to believe him as a struggling man who was once nicknamed “Potter” by his friend because he wears glasses. It doesn’t help that the hardest part of this character’s journey was portrayed by Fegley and not Elgort.

Theo’s life in the end is full of tragic coincidences. I didn’t want to cry because of these tragedies, instead I found myself wanting to laugh in disbelief.

The Goldfinch takes too much time to finally get to the point it’s trying to make, and doesn’t spend enough time with its most interesting plot points. It begs you to care about a piece of art that none of the characters seem to care about for the majority of the movie. I imagine those who loved the novel will also love this movie, but I can’t imagine this movie being for anyone else outside of that.

The Goldfinch will be released in theaters on Sept. 13.