Thoughtful, yet flawed, The Goldfinch, based on Donna Tartt's novel of the same name, opens with an explosion that takes the life of Theo Decker's mother while they are visiting an art exhibit. The explosion sets in motion a series of events that will take Theo, and the eponymous painting, across borders on a journey toward freedom, or something even more elusive: being comfortable with our cages.
Ansel Elgort and Oakes Fegley play Theo, at different ages, with their own twists on his vulnerability to great effect. The cast also includes a powerhouse performance from Nicole Kidman playing Mrs. Barbour who is in many ways a second mother to Theo. However, in the "Vegas" act of the movie, it is the performances of Finn Wolfhard as Boris, Luke Wilson as Theo's father, and Sarah Paulson as Xandra who stand out as thorns in the film's side. The casting of Stranger Things' Wolfhard as a young Boris was the breaking point of the film. His accent, though counteracted by a swaggering confidence, is so atrocious it made me question why the audience would want to like him at all.
In contrast, the look of The Goldfinch is one of the film's strengths. The ways in which the characters are dressed and the way this adaptation of the novel is colored both come together to create a fresh looking movie. It also captures New York City in a way that nothing has before. The Goldfinch feels new and yet rustic as if the film stock itself were antique.
The inconsistency of The Goldfinch is frustrating to watch in spite of some very interesting ideas. Ultimately, Director John Crowley makes a valiant effort, but by the end we're left wondering why we don't feel the payoff the film is trying to achieve.