- John Crowley
- Run Time
- 2 hours and 29 minutes
VP Content Ratings
- Sex & Nudity
- Star Rating
Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come:
As fish are caught in a cruel net,
or birds are taken in a snare,
so people are trapped by evil times
that fall unexpectedly upon them.
While watching director John Crowley’s thriller, based on Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel of the same name, I thought of a jigsaw puzzle. One has to discover how to place each seemingly unrelated scene together like the jagged pieces of a puzzle. Both novel (at 784 pages—which I haven’t read) and film (at almost 2 ½ hours) are long, so it takes patience.
At the center of the labyrinthine tale is the small painting by a pupil of Rembrandt’s hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and which is 13-year-old Theodore “Theo” Decker’s mother’s favorite work. Leaving her for a moment because a pretty red-haired girl has caught his eye, Theo (Oakes Fegley) stands next to the girl and the older man she is with. Suddenly a terrorist bomb explodes in the next gallery, killing Theo’s mother and others in the room. Theo and the girl are knocked unconscious. When he awakens amidst the rubble and dust, the boy is addressed by the dying companion of the girl and given a signet ring to give to his partner and instructions to take the painting. The near-delirious boy does so, entering the gallery where his mother had died and, placing the painting in his canvass school bag, walks through the gathering crowd back to his apartment. He blames himself for his mother’s death,
Because his divorced drunkard father cannot be found, Social Services places Theo with the family of school friend Andy Barbour, who live on Park Avenue. Samantha (Nicole Kidman), Andy’s mother, is a somewhat reserved woman but, as the months go by, bonds with him over their mutual love of art. During this time Theo keeps the painting hidden, so to the world, the painting was destroyed in the blast. He visits the dead man’s partner Hobie (Jeffry Wright) to give him the ring; he turns out to be the co-owner of an antique and restoration shop in the East Village, Hobart and Blackwell. Also the guardian of the girl he had seen at the museum, Pippa (Aimee Laurence), recovering from a head wound. Her father, Welty, was the dying man who had asked Theo to take the ring to the antique furniture shop. The boy visits often, attracted by the girl and the friendly Hobie’s tutoring about antique furniture.
Theo enjoys his time with the Barbours, and so is not pleased when Larry (Luke Wilson), the father who had abandoned him shows up with his girlfriend Xandra (Sarah Paulson) to lay claim on him. The boy is forced to live with them in an eerily abandoned housing project in the desert near Las Vegas. Almost all of the houses have been foreclosed. Larry is gone almost all of the time, and Xandra ignores the boy, so Theo is pleased to meet Boris (Finn Wolfhard). They are about the same age, but the Russian boy, far more experienced, leads Theo into days of drugs and shoplifting.
A series of events that includes Larry’s death find Theo returning to Manhattan by bus. Boris had promised to run away with him, but fails to show up at the bus station. Arriving in NYC, Theo goes to Hobie, who agrees to take him in. He continues the boy’s training in the art of furniture restoration. Jump ahead a number of years, and the young adult Theo (Ansel Elgort) is now a partner with Hobie. Their business has increased greatly, but we soon learn when a disgruntled customer shows up, that Theo has sold several restored pieces as originals (and thus at a far greater price). The man does not want his money back. He wants “The Goldfinch” that he has learned Theo has. How he learned of this, and how Boris enters Theo’s life again, proving literally to be a life-saver when they journey to Amsterdam, I will leave you to discover.
The film has an open ending, and indeed, more of a novelistic than realistic conclusion, even if it is an audience pleasing one. It could serve as an illustration of the ancient Hebrew teacher who wrote, “so people are trapped by evil times / that fall unexpectedly upon them.”
The cast is excellent, far better than the script. As a film dealing with survival guilt, it is compelling, though not as convincing as it might have been. Nonetheless, I am glad to have seen it, though this time do not believe I want to take the time to read the novel, as I have done after watching certain films.
This review will be in the July issue of VP along with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion. If you have found reviews on this site helpful, please consider purchasing a subscription or individual issue in The Store.