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Film Reviews Adapting Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch was never going to be easy – but did it have to be this hard?

Ansel Elgort, left, and Ashleigh Cummings in a scene from The Goldfinch.

Nicole Rivelli/The Associated Press

  • The Goldfinch
  • Directed by John Crowley
  • Written by Peter Straughan
  • Starring Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman and Jeffrey Wright
  • Classification R
  • 149 minutes

rating

Turning author Donna Tartt’s polarizing 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winner into a film was never going to be easy – the novel is 784 pages of wild coming-of-age Dickensian tragedy and pop-outrageousness, spread across decades and continents. But it didn’t have to be so frustratingly difficult, either.

What’s new in theatres this weekend, from the ambitious Hustlers to the misfire The Goldfinch

Telling the up-and-down life story of New York antique dealer Theo (Ansel Elgort as a young man, Oakes Fegley as a boy), whose mother was killed in a museum bombing, The Goldfinch gets the momentum of Tartt’s work all wrong. Director John Crowley and screenwriter Peter Straughan take their time when they should speed up, and move far too fast when they should take a beat to explain just what, exactly, is going on with Theo and his colourful crew of friends, lovers and enemies. The one exciting scene in the film even happens off-screen – from the way it’s described by one character to another, though, it sounded pretty neat.

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A host of talented performers get caught up in the mess, too, including Jeffrey Wright, Sarah Paulson and Nicole Kidman, the latter sporting an even worse old-age makeup job than in last year’s misfire Destroyer. And the less said about whatever Stranger Things breakout Finn Wolfhard is attempting in his role as Theo’s childhood partner in crime, the better.

Crowley knows his way around adaptations thanks to 2015′s lovingly precise Brooklyn, but as this 149-minute dramatically inert misfire proves, The Goldfinch should have never flown away from its literary perch.

The Goldfinch opens Sept. 13.

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