The Goldfinch


By Joanna Langfield

The book was better.

I hate being one of those sniffy “the book was better” people. I hate thinking artists can’t use source material to create a unique work of their own. But. If you’re going to mix it up with Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize winning Dickensian bestseller, you’d best deliver something worthy of our great expectations.

Director John Crowley tries to bring some elegance to Peter Straughan’s script, which takes a cleaver to Tartt’s sumptuously plotted story. Told here in an odd sequence of flashbacks and forwards, we get that Theo, a young boy, loses his mother in a terrible tragedy and thinks it is his fault. We watch as he finds surrogate parental figures, an assortment of friends and grows into a man with issues of his own. But, not withstanding the truly lovely work from young Oakes Fegley, we rarely get emotionally involved with any of it. Gone is some real character development, along with scenes that, in the novel, led to some key moments later on. Even at a lengthy two and a half hour running time, we’re left hanging. And don’t even get me started on that rushed, incomprehensible third act.

Perhaps it’s a problem of the editing, but surprisingly, even most of the performances feel flat. What could have been a whirl of larger than life, unforgettable characters hardly ever captivates us, some barely making an impression.

Perhaps that’s the saddest response a viewer can take away from this effort. Those familiar with the novel will undoubtedly bring their own emotions along, but those who aren’t might find themselves sitting back, observing and unmoved, as this awkward disappointment unfolds, wondering what all the fuss was about.