Film Review: THE GOLDFINCH (USA 2019)

The Goldfinch Poster

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.


John Crowley


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.