On an outing to the Met, thirteen year old Theo Decker’s (Oakes Fegley/Ansel Engelort) mother is killed during an explosion. Confused and disoriented, Theo is convinced by Welty (Robert Joy), a fatally injured elderly man to take and hide a priceless painting called The Goldfinch.
Theo is given the task of returning Welty’s ring to his partner, Hobie (Jeffrey Wright). Here he meets and regularly visits, Pippa (Aimée Laurence/Ashleigh Cummings), Welty’s niece, who was also injured in the blast. He makes his home with The Barbours, a privileged classmate’s family. On the verge of being adopted, Theo is forced to relocate to Las Vegas to live with his estranged grifter father (Luke Wilson) and his girlfriend, Xandra (Sarah Paulson).
Here Theo meets and befriends, Boris (Finn Wolfhard/Aneurin Barnard), a Ukrainian classmate who introduces him to alcohol and drugs as an escape from his unhappy home life. This combination of chaos changes the course of Theo’s life throwing him into a mess of adventures that will reconnected him with key players from his past, with The Goldfinch always at the centre.
I read the book this was based on several years ago and absolutely loved it. It was dark, complex, nuanced and often disturbing exploring themes of class, wealth, beauty, value and friendship. These are all quite common themes for the author, Donna Tartt.
As a film, I’m just not sure it works as well. The thing that makes the novel so good is how much work Tartt puts into the relationships between the awkward and morally ambiguous, Theo and the people who influence his life… Hobie, Boris, Pippa, The Barbours, even Xandra. She also sets tangible, immersive scenes, especially in the wasteland of suburban Las Vegas. The film simply does not have time to weave this tapestry and so all the connections seem a bit loose. The intensity is lacking and it’s hard to really understand the character motivations. Possibly this is different if you’ve not read the book but I could not help comparing.
The performances are fine, no one really stands out. No one is horrible. The whole experience is just very average. If this is a story you want to explore, I’d recommend the book over the film. If you can’t be bothered to read the book, I’d probably skip it altogether.