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THE GOLDFINCH gets 6/10 Gallery of life

Directed by John Crowley

Starring Ansel Elgort, Jeffrey Wright, Oakes Fegley, Finn Wolfhard, Luke Wilson, Sarah Paulsen, Nicole Kidman


Based on the novel by Donna Tartt, this rich, overstuffed 150 minute film certainly feels like it’s trying to adapt all 784 pages of the best-seller, at the expense of abbreviating and diluting some of its content. It is brimming with an ensemble cast spread across a variety of characters, making this personal tale feel as epic as life itself, but its expansive scope is compromised by how rushed, predictably archetypal, and uncaring much of it is.

It begins with 21 year old Theo (Ansel Elgort), reminiscing over how he feels responsible for his mother’s death (in a terrorist attack?) as he plans his suicide. The 13 year old Theo (Oakes Fegley) is seen being taken in by his equally nerdy friend, Andy (Ryan Foust), and his wealthy family, under the gentle wing of the mother, Samantha (Nicole Kidman). And there’s also the antiques specialist, Hobie (Jeffrey Wright), who he becomes a protégé to when he reveals he kept a rare painting from the terrorist attack, which took place when his mother brought him to an art gallery. And there’s Hobie’s niece, Pippa (Aimee Laurence), a girl who Theo met just before the attack.

And there’s also Theo’s dad, (Luke Wilson), and his new step-mom (Sarah Paulsen), who feels he ought to be bring him back into his heavy gambling and drinking Las Vegas life. And there’s the new school-friend he makes there, Boris (Finn Wolfhard), a Russian immigrant who’s a close companion, though bad influence. And there’s also his older self (Aneurin Barnard) who the older Theo stumbles upon when he travels back to New York – as well as the now grown-up eldest son of Samantha’s, Platt (Luke Kleintank), and his now grown-up sister, Kitsey (Willa Fitzgerald), and the grown-up Pippa (Ashleigh Cummings), and… as you can see, little brevity has been utilised in bringing book to screen.

It seems every character from the novel has been included here, but not all of their nuances and characterisation. The film does excel when it puts a more dedicated focus on other characters, such as the childhood friend Boris – despite the hokey Russian accent, their world in this specific time of their lives is lovingly and emotionally depicted. And yet some of the characters are downright stereotypical, to the point where you can predict every movement they make: poor Luke Wilson and Sarah Paulsen being wasted on such one-dimensional and fully unempathetic characters.

There is a beating heart to this film, though it erratically shifts back and forth between blood-red and stone-cold. This is a very lofty film that actually knows how to structure its story and make it feel so intimate and grand, but it gets many details lost amidst the details it manages to pay attention to.


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