About nine different times during my screening of The Goldfinch (for which I was the only soul in the theater) I thought to myself, “surely their can’t be that much left could there?” Little did I know that The Goldfinch was the longest movie ever made.
The Goldfinch is the austere story of one Theo Decker, a New York child who survives his mother in a museum bombing. Theo absconds from the ashes of the museum with two things: emotional trauma and Carel Fabritius’ painting, The Goldfinch. This pivotal scene is maybe the only actually interesting thing the script has-unfortunately, they know it, and string you along the whole runtime, only dropping brief shots until close to the end. The worst thing about it is by the time the movie is ready to show the whole bombing scene to me, I have completely lost interest, and am practically scowling at the screen. The film instead is told cutting back and forth between young Theo’s terrible life after the bombing, and old Theo’s attempts of dealing with it. Are either side very interesting? Not really. Is the movie as a whole very interesting? Not really.
If I had to pick one aspect of the movie I found tolerable, it would be the younger Theo story. I would chalk it up to “almost compelling,” mostly from the purely elemental level of “stories about orphans are interesting.” Young Theo is played by Oakes Fegley, an actor most known for the all-but-forgotten Pete’s Dragon remake. Remember that? Fegley gives the best performance in the movie, by far. He has a believable numbness that would occur in a kid who’s experienced psychological trauma. He’s also adult enough to fit the role without the obnoxious precociousness many child actors adopt. The majority of the movie is spent in the past and is unfortunately not that arresting of a story. You’ve seen it. His mom died, so he goes to live with some friends. As soon as he gets used to this new lifestyle, he has to go live with his dad. And guess what? His dad sucks. He makes a friend, they get into trouble, you get the idea. If the movie was just this kid’s story I would say it is fine. It’s not very special, but at least it has a truly insane performance from Finn Wolfhard as a thirteen-year-old Russian drug addict named Boris.
“It leaves you thinking, that’s all you had to say? Why did I waste my time with this?”
The present day segment of this movie is borderline unwatchable. After younger Theo’s story is all wrapped up, the movie welcomes you to watch another hour of interminable, melancholic nonsense. Ansel Elgort, an actor I like a lot, gives an awful performance, as he wanders morosely from self-serious scene to scene, trapping emotion behind a wan smile and tears welling up in his bespectacled eyes. Much of the film’s last act is spent reconnecting Theo to the important figures of his younger life. It’s as if he’s never met a single person in the eight years since the bombing. Adding in some pretentious jargon about fine art and antique furniture and the film is criminally dull at the best. However, once our favorite Russian psychopath Boris comes back into play, the movie completely falls apart, until it fizzles out into a completely lifeless conclusion. It leaves you thinking, that’s all you had to say? Why did I waste my time with this?
Don’t go see The Goldfinch. Not that you were planning on it anyway, if the film’s apocalyptically low box-office returns are any indication. I haven’t read the Pulitzer-prize winning novel, but I am certain it is more compelling than this glacial waste of space. It’s not even that the movie is noticeably horrendous or anything, it just commits the greatest sin of all: being lifeless, pointless, and, above all, dull.