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“The Goldfinch” Reaching Out of the Ashes

Review by John Delia

Another awards contender has come forward and is now at your local theaters. It’s called The Goldfinch and if you haven’t already heard, it’s one of the best of 2019 and a drama lover’s “cup of tea”. It has all the elements; excellent directing, amazing acting, perfect cinematography and a script that will haunt you way beyond the theatrical experience. It’s a difficult script to bring to the screen, but Director John Crowley who brought the Oscar nominated drama Brooklyn and the awesome performance of Andrew Garfield in A Boy, makes The Goldfinch a winner.

Theo Decker (Oakes Fegley), a 13 year old, is visiting New York’s Metropolitan Museum of art with his divorced mother Audrey (Hailey Wist). Wanting to take one last look at the painting, Audrey leaves Theo looking at a canvas “The Goldfinch”. An explosion happens and Theo is thrown to the floor next to the painting, Welton Blackwell an antique dealer and 13-year-old Pippa (Ainee Lawrence).

Ansel Elgort and Nicole Kidman in THE GOLDFINCH from Warner Bros

Surviving the catastrophe that took his mother’s life, and since his father has been estranged, Theo gets placed in the home of Chance Barbour (Boyd Gaines) and his wife Samantha (Nicole Kidman). It’s a new beginning for the brokenhearted boy, but one that will take him into an uncharted life filled with deception, fortunate success, romance and the unpredictable.

The film moves along at a fast pace while transitioning from Theo’s young life to adult with the Barbour’s, the intrusion of his father, his friendship with Boris Pavlikovsky (Aneurin Barnard), heartbreak and some unexpected surprises. Director John Crowley knows how to push buttons and delivers nice twists, the unforeseen, and a warmth that makes the two and a half hours all worthwhile.

Ansel Elgort and Jeffrey Wright in THE GOLDFINCH from Warner Bros.

There are so many winning roles by both young and older of characters, that it becomes a matter of choosing to mention even a few. Oakes Fegley as the young Theo kicks off the story and carries it like a seasoned actor well into the midpoint. He dominates the screen with his charming performance as he shows his character’s coming of age, the reverence for the persons that have helped him and the sadness that is still a part of him forever. As the older and wiser Theo, Ansel Elgort takes the role and runs with it giving the audience a view of how Theo has weathered his upbringing and turned into someone worthwhile. It’s the unknown that puts his Theo in the middle of a dangerous situation that involves Boris, and a lack of judgement that adds jeopardy to one of his mentors.

If there’s one performance by a female in a supporting role, it should go to Sarah Paulson who plays Xandra, the new companion of Theo’s father Larry Decker (Luke Wilson). A floozy yet the only safe person in the Decker home where Theo ends up, she gives the boy some semblance of family. Her mannerisms mimic a former prostitute that’s seen her day hanging onto to Larry for a place to live. She puts up with whatever companionship Larry has to offer beyond his gambling and alcohol bouts, yet you can see the damage done by her former life. It’s a pivotal role and she works it with aplomb.

Robert Joy, Ainee Lawrence and Oakes Fegley in THE GOLDFINCH from Warner Bros.

I could go on and on about the cast so I’ll just mention that the ensemble is amazing including Nicole Kidman as a woman who treats the young Theo as one of her own, Jeffrey Wright as Hobie” Hobart as a mentor. He gives a sensitive performance that provides the boy some self-esteem. The combination of Finn Wolfhard and Aneurin Barnard as young and older Boris creates both a coming of age companionship and later a stigma formed by guilt.

The camerawork, staging, sets, locations and costuming all play a part in the film to move it from one decade to the next. The crew and production departments really get detailed at times so you never get lost in the flashbacks and get the flavor of the times. Showing the personality changes with dress and make-up makes the script believable and the aging of the characters realistic.

The Goldfinch has been rated R for drug use and language. There are also scenes of parental abuse, alcohol abuse and violence. Be cautious when deciding to allow immature children see the film as it does have some scenes that are inappropriate for youngsters.

FINAL ANALYSIS: One of the best dramas this year. (5 out of 5 stars)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Oakes Fegley, Aneurin Barnard, Finn Wolfhard, Sarah Paulson, Luke Wilson, Jeffrey Wright, Nicole Kidman
Directed by: John Crowley
Genre: Drama
MPAA Rating: R for drug use and language
Running Time: 2 hrs. 29 min.
Opening Date: September 13, 2019
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
Released in: Standard, Color

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