Film Review: THE GOLDFINCH (USA 2019)

The Goldfinch Poster
Trailer

A boy in New York is taken in by a wealthy Upper East Side family after his mother is killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Director:

John Crowley

Writers:

Peter Straughan (screenplay by), Donna Tartt (based on the novel by)

Based on the Pulitzer Price Winning book by Donna Tartte, one wishes the film would contain a more solid and credible story, but what transpires onscreen is mired by two glaring flaws (two incidents that are totally inconceivable that they destroy the entire film.

John Crowley directs with the same care and over-caution as he did in his last BROOKLYN but goes off with the pacing.  For a crime caper, the film moves more like his BROOKLYN romance drama.

Decker (Ansel Elgort) was only 13 when his mother died in a museum bombing, sending him on an odyssey of grief and guilt, reinvention and redemption. Through it all, he holds on to one tangible piece of hope from that terrible day: a priceless painting of a bird chained to its perch, The Goldfinch – that he had kept from the bombing.

The film is a coming-of-age tale with criminal plots, personal secrets, and the transformative power of art thrown into the story.

The film opens with the mysterious and introverted Theodore Decker (Elgort) holed up in an Amsterdam hotel, desperate and facing a lethal threat.  His story since childhood then unfolds in layers of rash decisions and sudden betrayals.  Young Theo (Oakes Fegley) saw his privileged life with his mother shattered one day on a visit to an art museum.   In the aftermath of an attack among the masterpieces, one priceless 17th-century oil painting goes missing. What happened to the The Goldfinch? And how will its disappearance follow Theo across America throughout his whole youth and on to his Dutch hideout?  Clues are provided to the audience and it does not take a genius to put two and two together that Decker has the painting.

The two coincidental plot flaws are:

  • the coincidental re-meeting of Theo and Boris as adults in a bar out of the blue in NYC.  Just how many bars are there in NYC and how big is the city?  And the timing?
  • the over tidy Hollywood-Style happy ending where all comes too neatly in place to bring the film to a conclusion

Elgort is perfect in the role, showing both the charm and darker shadows that have marked his best work. Kidman is as compelling as ever in every frame. And a stellar cast of actors — Finn Wolfhard, Jeffrey Wright, Sarah Paulson, Luke Wilson — turn up as characters who further complicate Theo’s jagged path.

The big plus of the film is that Goldfinch was shot by the legendary, Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins, who gives it a polish appropriate to its high-stakes, high-crime story. 

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcG06hZooHM

Film Review: BABY DRIVER (USA 2017) *** 1/2

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baby driver.jpgAfter being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

Director: Edgar Wright
Writer: Edgar Wright
Stars: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James

Review by Gilbert Seah
 
The most ambitious and most expensive of the Edgar Wright movies (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ) , BABY DRIVER sees the Brit director working in a big budget Hollywood movie for the first time. The film is a car chase comedy crime caper with romance tied in for good measure.

The title derives from the name of the getaway car driver – Baby. A young and talented getaway driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort) relies on the personal beat of his preferred soundtrack, to be the best in the world of crime, as music heightens his focus and reflexes to extreme levels. A car accident as a child killed both his parents, and left him with permanent tinnitus, which he blocks out using music. He is preferred as a getaway driver by Doc (Kevin Spacey), a mastermind organizer of bank robberies and other high-earning heists.

Baby’s love interest is Debora (Lily James). Baby’s foster father is black and wheel chair ridden. These two people in Baby’s life are targets when Baby refuses in any way to comply with Doc or his crime partners. His main crime partners are Buddy (Jon Hamm), his girlfriend, Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) and Bats (Jamie Foxx). Baby has no problem performing the heists unless a killing is involved.

The car chases have to be good in a film about a getaway car driver. The audience is shown a sample of these in the opening scene. There are a total of three main car chases and these are expertly edited by Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss. One of the most important components of a car chase on screen is its continuity. This is what made Peter Yates’ BULLITT (with Steve McQueen) and William Friedkin’s THE FRENCH CONNECTION two films best remembered for their car chases. Thankfully, Wright’s film falls into this category, him relying less on computer graphics than the real thing.

Ansel Elgort, young and looking fresh for this movie is good as the dancing driver. Kevin Spacey delivers a straight-face performance reminiscent of his Oscar winning performance in AMERICAN BEAUTY. Of the cast. Joe Hamm is also memorable, being cast against type as a hardened criminal ready to kill for revenge.

As Baby relies on listening to is preferred songs on his iPod, the film also requires a good soundtrack of equivalent songs that should drive the audience. Surprisingly, Wright only offers the audience samples. The audiences is for example, told of Baby’s song by Queen when driving for the final heist, but they never get to listen to the full song. Similarly for the segments when Baby is dancing to music, the music is silent and baby is shown with his dance moves to no music. It can be argued as a case of less leading the audience to wanting more.

I am not a true Edgar Wright fan. Though I have enjoyed his films, I think SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ, are over-rated and I did not like THE WORLD’S END that had sloppy writing with inaccuracy in details. This makes BABY DRIVER Wright’s best movie.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2z857RSfhk

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