‘The Goldfinch’ is visually appealing but lacks substance


Ansel Elgort portrays Theo, a young man who was orphaned at a young age after his mother was killed in bombing. Warner Bros. website photo

Though this film has its moments of excellence, “The Goldfinch” is mundane and has its fair share of shortcomings.

Based on a novel of the same name by Donna Tartt, “The Goldfinch” centers around Theo, played by both Ansel Elgort and Oakes Fegley, who struggles to come to terms with the death of his mother. While visiting a fine arts museum in New York City, both Theo and his mother are caught in a bombing. Theo’s mother is killed, but he survives. To cope with his mother’s death, Theo steals a priceless painting of a goldfinch bird that survives the explosion. However, in doing so, Theo introduces more problems into his life then he does resolve them.

This film is flawed. “The Goldfinch” is way too long. The two and a half hour runtime causes this film’s pacing to suffer, especially at the beginning where the narrative does not flow well. “The Goldfinch” would have been significantly better if 25 to 30 minutes had been trimmed from the final cut.

The writing of the film also could have used some more time and effort. Elgort’s poor dialogue, as well as his mundane and uninspired performance, made adult Theo a dull character and left quite a bit to be desired. It’s a shame because Elgort has shown, with films like “Baby Driver,” that he can deliver a compelling performance.

On the contrary, Fegley, who portrays a younger Theo, delivers a decent performance. Unfortunately, his performance was the only standout. Finn Wolfhard, who portrays Theo’s childhood friend Borris, has shown through his previous work, like “Stranger Things,” that he too is capable of delivering a competent performance. Yet in “The Goldfinch,” he fails to do such, and his obviously forced-Ukrainian accent is atrocious. If I had been the director, I would simply have cast an actual Ukrainian actor at that point.

However, despite some of the film’s shortcomings, there are aspects of “The Goldfinch” that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Roger Deakin’s cinematography, and his ability to capture beautiful visuals, delivered a visual melancholy that was present throughout.

I enjoy getting sad and dwelling into my feelings and emotions when watching dramas, especially if a film explores the sad and dark sides of the human condition. So to see a dark, melancholic, aesthetic compliment, “The Goldfinch’s” sorrow narrative struck a chord with me.

Deakin has earned his role as an esteemed cinematographer through his work with the Coen Brothers, with films like “No Country for Old Men” and “Fargo,” and winning an Oscar for “Blade Runner 2049.” So it’s no surprise that “The Goldfinch” is visually captivating.

However, this film’s shortcomings overshadow its moments of glory. I wouldn’t mind seeing this film again, but I won’t make the effort to do so as there are other dramas with more narrative substance than “The Goldfinch.”

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Angel Ortega can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AngelOrtegaNews.