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  • Ansel ElgortNicole Kidman...
  • Drama
  • John Crowley
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Yasmeen Mamdouh
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The Goldfinch: Biting More Than It Can Chew?‎

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Filmmakers have their work cut out when trying to turn a successful novel into a feature because films rarely live up to audiences’ expectations when compared with the book. A cinematic adaptation of Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, The Goldfinch is definitely a leap of faith. Is it biting more than it can chew?

The Goldfinch follows schoolboy Theo (Oakes Fegley) who, survived a bombing in a museum but tragically lost his mother to it. Theo’s life changes forever, heading towards a never-ending spiral, not only because of his mother’s traumatising death but also because of a painting he walked out with that day, called The Goldfinch.

After seeing the feature, it’s clear that the novel is much more successful than the adaptation. The audience barely sees into Theo’s psyche, when he’s the film’s main focal point. The only insight the audience gets is Theo’s feeling of guilt towards his mother’s death, which takes up the coming-of-age slice of his life, until the adult Theo takes over, played by Ansel Elgort.

The way The Goldfinch offers new information to progress the plot is also much more like a book than a film; the feature relied on just giving off half of a piece of information and then going back and finishing that piece of information, but also adding another half to keep the audience guessing. That technique was interesting in the beginning and helped create a mysterious vibe to the feature, but keeping that up for two and a half hours left the film looking jumbled and the audience tired of going back and forth.

Visually the film is stunning with a perfect balance between being evocative and realistic, yet it does not make up for the film’s shortcomings.

Keeping in mind that the shallow portrayal of the character in the script partly takes the blame; Oakes Fegley gave an uneven performance, in which some scenes were perfectly mastered, while others were too underplayed. Ansel Elgort gives what can be called a strong performance, albeit within the weak frame of the script.

Playing the mother of Theo’s best friend from elementary school, Nichole Kidman’s performance was muddled with unclear character intentions and distinctions. While Luke Wilson’s performance, as Theo’s dead-beat dad, was mediocre at best, lacking the messed-up side that his character was framed to have.

The Goldfinch is a dark film that might have you thinking about it after it is over, but it is definitely not perfect and maybe even advocates you just stick to reading the book.

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360 Tip

The painting featured in the novel, The Goldfinch, is work by Carel Fabritius from 1654. It belongs to the collection of the Mauritshuis in The Hague, Netherlands. Author Donna Tartt first saw the painting 20 years before the release of the book.

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