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Film / The Goldfinch

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The Goldfinch is a 2019 drama film directed by John Crowley, based on the novel of the same name by Donna Tartt. The film stars Ansel Elgort as Theo, Nicole Kidman as Samantha, Finn Wolfhard and Aneurin Barnard as Boris, Sarah Paulson as Xandra, Luke Wilson as Larry, Jeffrey Wright as Hobie, and Ashleigh Cummings as Pippa.

This work contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Both Theo's and Boris' fathers are abusive. Theo's lies and tries to steal his money, while Boris' simply beats him.
  • Adapted Out: Most characters in the novel show up at some point in the film, but not the female friends that Boris and Theo make in high school. Hobie's friends are also sacrificed, so the film never addresses Hobie's ambiguous sexuality.
  • The Alcoholic: Both Theo's and Boris' fathers are alcoholics. Theo's quits hard liquor but still drinks beer, while Boris' father drinks so much vodka that he can't feel his feet.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Discussed when Theo and Platt note how Kitsey is still close with Tom, the asshole Theo knew in school. When Theo confronts her about it, Kitsey admits that she's in love with "the wrong person."
  • Ambiguously Bi: Similar to the novel, Boris shows overt interest in women and is hinted, but never confirmed, to be attracted to Theo. He sleeps beside Theo after a bender, comforts him in his arms when he has a nightmare, and kisses him goodbye on the mouth when Theo leaves town.
  • Anachronic Order: Unlike the novel, the film jumps back and forth between multiple time periods, alternating between Theo’s life before the explosion, after it, and as an adult.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Theo has finally been able to move on from his mother's death, The Goldfinch is no longer on his conscience, a number of other classic paintings have been returned to their rightful place, and Hobie seems to have forgiven him. However, he's still not in love with his fiance, he's still on the hook for dozens of forgeries, and he's killed someone.
  • Color Motif: It’s subtle, but sharp-eyed audiences will notice that most of the film’s color palette is the same as the real painting The Goldfinch.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Theo's father goes on a bender after being denied access to Theo's inheritance, which he apparently needed to pay off some severe debt. He crashes his car with a BAC of 0.39%.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Boris is the only student in his English class who relates to Thoreau's Walden, and mutters under his breath that a girl who bashes Thoreau's choice to distance himself from society is a "twat".
  • The Film of the Book: It's an adaptation of the original novel.
  • Financial Abuse: Attempted when Theo's The Gambling Addict father Larry demands that he call the lawyer overseeing the trust fund that his late mother left him and asking for $65,000. The lawyer not only reveals that his father has been trying to get access to the money, but fortunately, that his mother decreed that the money not only only be used for his education, but be paid to the school directly.
  • Foreshadowing
    • Andy says he hates sailing. He ultimately dies at sea.
    • Long before Theo's father ever shows up, Theo says that he once dismissed Edgar Allan Poe is "the Vincent Price of the written word." Theo and Hobie sneer at that assessment. Theo's father turns out to be a real dick.
    • A retroactive example: Chronologically, the last two paintings that Theo's mother talks about before she dies are The Anatomy Lesson, depicting the dissection of a cadaver, and a still life with a withered leaf, which she notes is a message that "nothing lasts forever."
  • Framing Device: The movie opens with Theo preparing to attempt suicide and returns to that point in the last 15 minutes of the film.
  • Functional Addict:
    • Samantha Barbour has a prescription for anti-anxiety medication that she just gives to Theo. She behaves as if she takes them regularly.
    • Xandra manages a bar yet seems to be a functional alcoholic with a massive bag of Vicodin hidden in the cupboard.
    • Boris' father travels the world installing mines but drinks so much he can't feel his feet.
    • Theo himself is hooked on pills while running Hobart & Blackwell.
    • Boris has become successful in the underworld without giving up his indulgences in drugs and alcohol.
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: Welty Blackwell gives Theo his ring to give to Hobie after the museum bombing. He even implores Theo to take the painting with him to prevent the bombers from taking it.
  • Just a Flesh Wound: Boris is shot in the arm during the climax of the film, but only a few days later shows no sign of injury and is able to drag Theo around without difficulty.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Tom, Theo's cool friend in school, makes Theo take the rap for his own infraction of smoking cigarettes. Theo confronts him about it and stops hanging out with him. Later, it's revealed that Kitsey is cheating on him with Tom.
    • A subtle one for Theo's father. When he arrives at the Barbours after months of being unreachable, he reveals that he tried to get into his ex-wife apartment first before picking up his own son. A more obvious one comes when it's revealed that he and Xandra left their dog unattended while they were traveling across the country, then gripe about how it "shit all over the carpet."
  • Love Triangle: Theo is in two of them. He loves Pippa, but Pippa is marrying a nice, stable British guy. He is himself marrying a nice, stable woman, Kitsey, who is in love with Tom.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Theo says his favorite subject is English and lists some of his favorite authors. In adulthood, he shares a love of reading with Pippa, and they exchange books.
  • No Ending: The film ends with The Goldfinch returned to the museum, but little else is resolved in Theo's life. Will he go through with his marriage to Kitsey? Will he and Hobie reconcile? Will their business survive? Will Lucius Reeve destroy their reputations? Will Theo go to prison?
  • Pragmatic Adaptation:
    • The book spans a number of years of Theo's childhood and teens, but the film could only convincingly have a single actor to represent Theo as a child, so the timeline is condensed.
    • In the novel, Theo is trapped in Amsterdam due to a serious illness preventing him from sorting out his passport issues. In the film, this is simplified to him simply languishing in depression.
  • Product Placement: An unusual one. Theo is confused to see his recovering alcoholic father drinking a Bud Light, with its label turned directly to the camera. Xandra dismisses his concerns, claiming that beer doesn't count.
  • Race Lift: Hobie is white in the book, but played by Jeffrey Wright in the film.
  • Reformed Bully: The Barbour kids apart from Andy weren't particularly nice to Theo, but once they've all grown up, they're all perfectly friendly and a little embarrassed by their childish behavior.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Theo's class discusses Walden by Henry David Thoreau. The disinterested students complain that the author is just sitting around a pond contributing nothing to society. The teacher is at a bit of a loss to convey what's important about the work.
    • Theo mentions J. R. R. Tolkien and Edgar Allan Poe as his favorite authors.
    • Of course, the film is named after and prominently features The Goldfinch. Theo's mother is also a fan of Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.
  • Stereotypical Nerd: Andy Barbour is a short-statured, bespectacled, bullied kid who is an expert chess player. He also hates sailing.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: After being stolen back by the criminals in Amsterdam, the painting was behind an impregnable fortress. Rather than break in themselves to recover it, Boris has a tip phoned in to the police, who recover a number of stolen paintings.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Theo, Pippa, Boris and Platt are played by adult actors after a time-skip.
  • Time Skip: As with the book, there is a jump between Theo's childhood and adulthood.