Stilted adaptation saps all the life and energy out of Donna Tartt's neo-Dickensian novel
THE GOLDFINCH (John Crowley). 149 minutes. Opens Friday (September 13). See listing. Rating: NN
The Goldfinch is the sort of handsome, earnest, tedious film that gives prestige dramas a bad name.
Based on Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, it’s about Theo Decker (Ansel Elgort), a young antiques dealer who, as a child (Oakes Fegley, a real find), survived a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that killed his mother. He’s carried the guilt of that death ever since, along with a priceless painting he took from the museum.
Directory John Crowley (Brooklyn) and screenwriter Peter Straughan (The Snowman) have sapped all the life out of Tartt’s 800-page neo-Dickensian novel, leaving a narrative that, in its jumbled chronology and messy way of introducing secondary characters, will confuse many. Theo’s romantic interests (Ashleigh Cummings and Willa Fitzgerald) come across as especially anemic and confusing.
As in the book, Theo’s friend Boris, the crafty son of a Ukrainian émigré, is entertaining, especially as played by Finn Wolfhard (as a kid) and Aneurin Barnard (as an adult). Nicole Kidman has little to do as a sympathetic Upper East Side matron who temporarily takes Theo in after he’s orphaned, and Jeffrey Wright, as his antiques mentor/surrogate dad, has even less. Denis O’Hare delivers the film’s one surprising turn as a clever, suspicious furniture buyer.
Elgort’s Theo, meanwhile, seems less like a haunted character than a magazine eyewear model, brooding moodily in restaurants and hotel rooms.