The Goldfinch film review: lacking in momentum

Ansel Elgort as Theo Decker and Nicole Kidman as Mrs Barbour in The Goldfinch.
Ansel Elgort as Theo Decker and Nicole Kidman as Mrs Barbour in The Goldfinch.

AT two-and-a-half hours, a film that length has to earn its audience attention and while The Goldfinch is not an arduous viewing experience, it can hardly be called pacy.

Adapted from the well-loved 2013 novel by Donna Tartt, the story follows Theo Decker (Oakes Fegley as a 13-year-old and Ansel Elgort as a young adult), whose world is turned upside down when he is caught up in a bomb explosion at a New York art gallery where his mother is killed.

Miraculously, the painting he was admiring just before the explosion survives, Carel Fabritius’ The Goldfinch, and he rescues it from the rubble.

The painting becomes a link to his mother as he is moved from New York to live with his previously absent father (Luke Wilson), but as an adult his illicit possession of the artwork gets him tangled up in a world of crime.

Nicole Kidman as Mrs Barbour and Oakes Fegley as Theo Decker.

Theo is played by Fegley for about half the film and effectively portrays his abject trauma and sorrow, emphasised by flashbacks to the explosion.

He also shows that Theo is still a teenage boy, particularly when he becomes friends with Ukrainian teenager Boris (Finn Wolfhard, Aneruin Barnard as an adult) as they run amuck through the suburban wastelands of Las Vegas.

Ansel Elgort as Theo Decker.

A plethora of renowned actors make the most of their archetypical roles: Nicole Kidman as the elegant Mrs Barbour who takes Theo in after the explosion, Sarah Paulson as Xandra the tacky girlfriend of Theo’s father and Jeffrey Wright as Hobie the measured antique furniture restorer.

Ansel Elgort as Theo Decker and Willa Fitzgerald as Kitsey Barbour.

But when Theo ages into Elgort, the film loses its momentum and a convoluted plot concerning drug gangs and dodgy furniture dealing distracts from the central idea of art as a way to work through grief and connect with those we love.

THE ESSENTIALS

The Goldfinch (M)

Directed by: John Crowley

Starring: Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, Oakes Fegley

Three stars

Review by Lucy Rutherford

In cinemas September 26

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