The Goldfinch Fails to Fly in Theaters

Sophie Castro, Editor

As of last Friday, The Goldfinch hit, and ultimately bombed, in the box office. Having earned a 25% on Rotten Tomatoes, and grossing a measly $3.5 million, few movie goers are eager to spend their money on this film; however, The Goldfinch, while not the jewel of the film industry, shouldn’t be written off as a horrible movie. 

Originally a novel, The Goldfinch is a literary masterpiece. After spending 48 weeks on the New York Times’ best seller list, and winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, this book captured the hearts of millions, including the heart of director, John Crowely. 

Crowley’s love for this story shows in every scene of The Goldfinch as Crowley turns ordinary shots that take place in everyday settings, such as a living room or an antique shop, into beautiful scenes that pull the viewer deeper into the film. 

The film opens with 13 year old Theo Decker (Oakes Fegley) going to stay with the Barbour family after losing his Mom in a museum bombing. 

As Theo navigates life without his mother, he experiences periodic flashbacks of the explosion and the viewer discovers that, after the explosion, Theo had taken Carol Fabritious’ painting: The Goldfinch. 

Kept in a yellow canvas bag, this painting stays with Theo throughout his childhood and becomes the thread which connects the multitude of story lines throughout the film. 

In addition to discovering that Theo had stolen the painting, these flashbacks also show that Theo had met an older man in the aftermath of the explosion, who had given him a ring before he died. Theo later uses this ring to find the furniture antique store ‘Hobart and Blackwell’ and meet James “Hobie” Hobart (Jeffrey Wright), who becomes Theo’s friend and confidant during his time at the Barbours. 

While at Hobie’s, Theo meets Pippa (Aimee Laurence), a girl who had also been injured in the explosion, and who becomes Theo’s friend and later love interest. 

However, just as Theo begins to adapt to life at the Barbour’s, his formerly absent and vice-ridden father (Luke Smith) shows up with his girlfriend, Xandra (Sarah Paulsen), to take Theo to his home in Las Vegas.

These opening scenes, while fractured with occasionally confusing flashbacks, are ultimately straightforward with memorable performances given by Fegley and Wright, who portray their character’s emotions with a subtle brilliance, that brings them to life on screen.

As Theo flies to Las Vegas with his new family, the film cuts to older Theo (Ansel Elgort), who is now a young antiques art dealer working with his former mentor, James Hobart. Though Theo’s younger years pulled the viewer deeper into the film, his older years seem dull in comparison. While Theo reconnects with people from his past, the scenes lack in the narrative which the book relies so heavily upon, and Elgort’s stoic performance leaves the viewer still wanting something more. 

However, just as the film begins to lose you, Crowley makes the smart decision of cutting back to Theo’s more interesting past experience in Los Angeles, where he meets nomad Ukranian student Boris (Finn Wolfhard), who quickly becomes Theo’s best friend and introduces him to recreational drugs and alcohol. 

This time spent in Las Angeles is undoubtedly the highlight of this film. With the stunningly beautiful Las Vegas, desert backdrop and the relationships formed between Theo, Boris, and his Father, viewers who’ve read The Goldfinch will see their favorite characters come to life, and those who haven’t read the novel will get to watch a remarkable coming of age story unfold. 

Yet, all good things must come to an end, and as Theo leaves Las Vegas, and the film cuts back to older Theo, that is exactly what happens. 

While not overtly terrible, Theo’s older years become jumbled with multiple underdeveloped story lines including, a love triangle, drug addiction, a stolen painting, and antique fraud. 

Though the story had the potential to become something amazing, this two and a half hour movie is surprisingly too short, taking the time to present all of these problems without actually tying up any loose ends, leaving the viewer wanting for a more complete story. 

And so, with its stunning cinematography, talented actors, and under-baked story line, The Goldfinch is far from a masterpiece, but still remains a good movie to watch on a rainy day.