If you have the option, pick a theater with recliners if you go see “The Goldfinch.”
Then, when the action lags – and it does frequently – you’ll at least be comfortable.
Based on Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the film slows specifically when it tells the story of Theodore Decker as an adult.
As a child (played by Oakes Fegley), he’s thrust into a wealthy family’s home after his mother dies during a museum bombing. As he was exiting the building, another victim told him to take a painting called “The Goldfinch.” Smuggling it out in a bag, it becomes his last link to his former life.
Assigned to the haughty Barbour family, he’s unsure who to trust. The family’s matriarch (Nicole Kidman) takes him under wing and tries to assure him he’s going to be OK.
Everything looks fine until his long-absent father (Luke Wilson) turns up and says he’s taking him to Las Vegas.
There, he encounters a much different life – one filled with drugs and alcohol, lies and betrayal.
He finds a friend in another outsider, a Ukranian-Russian teen named Boris (“Stranger Thing’s” Finn Wolfhard, who’s very, very good) who tries to convince him life can get better.
Director John Crowley then jumps ahead and introduces us to an adult Theo (played by Ansel Elgort) who finds direction with an antiques dealer (Jeffrey Wright). He becomes an ace salesman and, yes, still hides the painting from others.
Because Elgort isn’t as committed as Fegley, the character doesn’t have the same intensity. He falls in love with the Barbours’ daughter and is pulled into the art underworld when a figure from his past re-emerges.
Clearly, more editing was done during the adult years. Scenes skip frequently, then double back to the teen years.
Sarah Paulson is fine as Theo’s father’s girlfriend and Wright manages to keep the guessing game going as long as he’s on screen.
But there’s a lot about the painting, the man in the museum and Theo’s mom that needed to be included to make this “Goldfinch” sing.
Fans of the book may enjoy seeing how someone realized the characters. Others may wonder where the nuance went when Peter Straughan was adapting Tartt’s 780-plus-page book.
The premise is interesting. The execution (yawn) is not.