TIFF review: The Goldfinch

John Crowley's adaptation of Donna Tartt's acclaimed novel is handsome, earnest and tedious

THE GOLDFINCH GALA D: John Crowley. U.S. 149 min. Sep 9, 12:15 pm, TIFF 1 Sep 11, 2:45 pm, Scotiabank 2. 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 Crowley (Brooklyn) and screenwriter Peter Straughan (The Snowman) have sapped all the life out of Tartt’s 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 come across as especially anemic. 

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 furniture buyer.

Elgort’s Theo, meanwhile, seems less like a haunted character than a magazine eyewear model, brooding moodily in restaurants and hotel rooms. 

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