The Hippo


Mar 30, 2020








The Goldfinch (R)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz


A boy loses his mother in a bombing at an art museum in The Goldfinch, the bookiest book adaptation to ever book its way on screen.
Tween/young teen Theo Decker (Oakes Fegley) is at a New York City museum with his mom when a bomb goes off. When he comes to, he doesn’t see her but does briefly cross paths with a dying man, Blackwell, who gives him a ring to take to his business partner and who tells Theo to take — or maybe rescue or who knows — the famous centuries-old painting of a goldfinch that is now lying on the floor covered in debris. Theo takes the small painting, returns to his mom’s apartment and waits for her to come home. When she doesn’t, he eventually calls for help and, because his mother is among the bombing dead and his father had recently abandoned the family, Theo is sent to live with sort of distant friends, the wealthy Barbour family. The mom (Nicole Kidman) takes a shine to Theo, who is friends with her son Andy (Ryan Foust), Theo’s friend from school and one of the four Barbour children. 
The Barbours are, I don’t know, weird rich people but Theo is basically happy there. He also seems to take comfort from a friendship with Hobie (Jeffrey Wright), the business partner of the dying man. Hobie sells and restores antiques and is currently looking after tween/teen Pippa (Aimee Lawrence). The niece of the late Blackwell, who was her guardian, Pippa is staying with Hobie while she recovers from a head injury caused by the bombing. Pippa was standing next to Theo when the bomb went off.
The somewhat healing existence that Theo carves out for himself with the Barbours and with Hobie and Pippa comes to an end when Pippa is sent to live with an aunt and Theo’s father, Larry (Luke Wilson), and his girlfriend Xandra (Sarah Paulson) show up to take Theo.
Theo reluctantly moves to Las Vegas, living in one of the few occupied homes in a dusty, vacant suburb, and is clearly of extremely minimal interest to Larry, and possibly only as a means to getting his hands on anything Theo may have inherited. Theo seems to mostly try to stay out of his father’s way, spending his time with Boris (Finn Wolfhard), a kid originally from Russia with an abusive father. Boris and Theo goof off, ruminate on their messy lives and do a whole lotta drugs and alcohol together.
Years later, adult Theo (Ansel Elgort) lives in New York City, where he works with Hobie, pines for Pippa and reacquaints himself with the rich weirdos that are the Barbour family. Through it all, Theo visits the storage locker where he keeps the goldfinch painting to guiltily hold it and load up on the many drugs he takes to get through the day.
I get that this movie wants to consider the big issues — what remains of a person or a moment after life is over, how do moments echo throughout our lives, does dressing small children like East Coast professors make them more academically successful. But the way it presents its thoughts feels thin and repetitive. Let’s talk about antique furniture some more, let’s do another scene of Theo hugging the painting. And for all this contemplation, the movie lacks deep revelation. 
Despite being in this world for so long, I found myself more frustrated with the characters than actually caring about them, possibly because they always felt like characters and not human people. (At one point, a character explains that she wants to get married to a man she likes but doesn’t love because it’s a good match. What, for the future stability of their kingdoms? We see no evidence that this “good match” is particularly necessary, even just as a device to keep these characters in each other’s lives, so this bit of plot tension just seems silly.) Everything about these characters is so mannered. 
I feel like a lot of what this movie is doing gets lost — in repetition and in trying to show us, maybe, all the details. The way that the visuals of the bombing keep coming back to Theo feel like a demonstration of what it’s like to live with such a traumatic incident. And yet it also feels like the movie executes this in a way that makes that element lose some of its impact.
The Goldfinch can never shake off its book enough to tell its story clearly. C
Rated R for drug use and language, according to the MPAA. Directed by John Crowley with a screenplay by Peter Straughan (based on the novel by Donna Tartt), The Goldfinch is two hours and 29 minutes long and is distributed by Warner Bros. 

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