“The Goldfinch”

We saw “The Goldfinch” so you don’t have to, and here’s what happened

By Camilla Breen

The movie adaptation of Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Goldfinch” finally hit theaters this week. Unfortunately, the two hour and 39 minute film misses the mark, and leaves viewers questioning what they just watched. 

The story centers around Theodore Decker, a kid from New York City. Portrayed by Oakes Figley and Ansel Elgort, who play the younger and older Theo, respectively, the film follows his journey as he grows up and hides a stolen painting. He also deals with the loss of his mother and a drug addiction. 

The main issue with “The Goldfinch” is its runtime. Fitting 800 pages into one movie is a challenge in and of itself, but the addition of jumps in time does not translate well on screen. The movie is almost too long, as there is not enough plot to support its length. Many important plot points are excluded, making the storyline confusing for viewers. 

While the film does not meet many expectations, there are some elements that work well. The cinematography is an important component of the movie, because it is one of its only redeeming factors. There are a few poignant scenes that carry the rest of the movie. One that comes to mind is when young Theo and young Boris (portrayed by Finn Wolfhard) are reflecting on their childhoods in the Las Vegas nighttime. It captures the true essence of the story: dealing with loss, grief, and the reality of growing up.

With such a prominent cast, the movie was headed for instant fame. However, the combination of underwhelming writing and a less than stellar performance from main lead Ansel Elgort left much to be desired. One actor stands out from the rest, though: Oakes Fegley steals the show with his portrayal of young Theo. His nuanced performance transforms Theo from a child to a young adult in a believable and candid manner. 

“The Goldfinch” is a disappointing movie with few redeeming qualities, and is only understandable if you read the novel.  As it is with any book-to-movie adaptation, there will always be plot points missing, but when the adaptation cannot stand alone as a movie, it is not well done. The storyline and length are maladapted to the big screen, despite its potential.

Wake Mag