'The Goldfinch' [Blu-ray + Digital]
(Ansel Elgort, Oakes Fegley, Aneurin Barnard, Finn Wolfhard, Ashleigh Cummings, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / R / 2019 / Warner Bros.)
Overview: Theodore “Theo” Decker (Ansel Elgort) was 13 years old when his mother was killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The tragedy changes the course of his life, sending him on a stirring odyssey of grief and guilt, reinvention and redemption, and even love.
Through it all, he holds on to one tangible piece of hope from that terrible day … a painting of a tiny bird chained to its perch. The Goldfinch.
Blu-ray Verdict: Taking it from the top, and 13 year-old Theo (Oakes Fegley) is visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art with his mother when a bomb explodes leaving Theo dazed in the rubble and his mother dead.
An encounter with an injured stranger causes Theo to take a painting and flee the museum. Theo proceeds to hide the artwork as the family of one of his schoolmates takes him in.
The painting is "The Goldfinch" by Rembrandt's pupil Carel Fabritius. In the first of many parallels separated by time, we learn Fabritius was killed (and most of his work destroyed) in an explosion.
In fact, it's these parallels and near-mirror-images are what make the story so unique and interesting - and so difficult to fit into a film.
When Theo's long-lost drunken shyster father (Luke Wilson) shows up with his equally smarmy girlfriend Xandra (Sarah Paulson), they head to the recession-riddled suburbs of Las Vegas.
It's here where Theo meets Boris (Finn Wolfhard, from Stranger Things), a Ukranian emigrant living with his dad (yet another parallel). The two boys become friends, partaking in drugs, alcohol, and shoplifting.
Another tragedy puts Theo on the run. He finds himself back in New York, where he takes up with Hobie (Jeffrey Wright), the partner of the stranger from the museum.
All of this is told from the perspective of young adult Theodore Decker, played by Ansel Elgort. We see him bunkered in a hotel room contemplating suicide.
The story we watch shows how his life unfolded and landed him in this particular situation. And it's here where we find the core of the story.
Circumstances in life guide our actions, and in doing so, reveal our true character. Theo carries incredible guilt over his mother, and his actions with Hobie, regardless of the reasons for doing so, lead him to a life that is not so dissimilar to that of adult Boris (Aneurin Barnard, 'Dunkirk') when their paths cross again.
Other supporting work is provided by Ashleigh Cummings as Pippa, the object of Theo's desire, Willa Fitzgerald (played young Claire in 'House of Cards') as Kitsey Barbour, Theo's fiancé, as well as Denis O'Hare ('AHS'), Peter Jacobson, and Luke Kleintank.
As a special treat, Oscar winner Nicole Kidman plays Mrs. Barbour in what feels like two different performances. When Theo is young, she is the cold, standoffish surrogate mother who takes him in; however when older Theo returns, her own personal tragedies have turned her into a warm bundle of emotions in need of pleasantry.
It's quite sterling work from an accomplished actress.
The segments of the film that resonate deepest are those featuring Oakes Fegley as young Theo. Fegley was so good in the criminally underseen 'Wonderstruck' (2017), and here he conveys so much emotion despite maintaining a stoic demeanor.
It's rare to see such a layered performance from a young actor. Of course the film is helped immensely by the unequaled work of cinematographer Roger Deakins (he finally won his first Oscar last year in his 14th nomination).
Trevor Gureckis provides the music to fit the various moods and the two time periods.
All of these elements work to give the film the look of an Oscar contending project; however, we never seem to connect with the older Theo, which leaves a hollow feeling to a story that should be anything but.
Instead we are left to play "spot the parallels"! A fun game, sure, but not engaging like we would hope. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via 1080p and comes with the Special Features of:
Featurette: The Goldfinch Unbound
Featurette: The Real Goldfinch
Deleted Scenes (with over 16 minutes of deleted scenes with commentary from Director John Crowley)
Official 'The Goldfinch' Trailer
'The Goldfinch' Blu-ray + Digital Amazon Purchase Link
Official 'The Goldfinch' Movie Facebook Page