'The Goldfinch' paints dull picture from prize-winning book


Donna tarts 2013 book the Goldfinch won a Pulitzer Prize for its story of a boy whose mother dies in bombing. It is an epic tale of grief life abandonment friendship drugs and stolen painting of a Goldfinch now the Goldfinch has been adapted into a movie starring Ansel elgort Oaks vaguely Nicole Kidman Luke Wilson Jeffrey Right in Wolf Hart and Sarah Paulson. I'm Stephen Thompson this week on pop culture happy hour from NPR. You're talking the Gold Bitch of the movie movie and the book that spawned in here with me in the studio is very hardiman. Who was the books editor for Weekend Edition. Hello Bury. It is a pleasure to have you here. Also with us is writer Katie Presley Wrestling Hello Katy Hi there and also joining us writer Chris Clinic Hello Chris. I've seen Goldfinger a hundred times. I'm so excited to talk about so I'm not going to start with you and give you a couple of minutes to regroup start with Berry. You've read the book have and you've seen the movie. Would you think think well I will say that this movie suffers from something that I think often happens when you try to maybe be just slightly to faithful full to a in terms of literary adaptation the book which is a doorstop of a book and has so many places and plot points. If you reduce it down to its plot points it becomes a very and then this and then this and then this and then this and the movie to me felt very plop. PLOP PLOP PLOP plot plot. Here's a lovely actor plop. PLOP PLOP PLOP plot and in their ways in which you know as you read the list of actors in it and I heard Ansel elgort oaks vaguely. I thought well that sounds like a more interesting movie because it didn't it sort of lost some of its Dickensian deal of the book because it seems to me. Maybe you had a director who was so who wanted to be. He's just so faithful to the book that he he neglected to tell the real story of the book which I think you can do and lose truly like maybe half off of the plot. which in some ways is maybe how I felt about the book? I think Donna Tart is marvelous. I am a huge secret for history fan and this is a hard one to do. You're telling this story that spans a number of years and and that involves a lot of characters being played by multiple actors unless you are Nicole Kidman your role is is split between only do a roll if she can play a forty year span in a in a characters life exactly so so this is a sprawling story so to summarize a little bit of that plot boy named Theo he he is at a museum with his mom. The museum bombed his mother dies and feel winds up taking a painting from the museum and that painting has an impact on his life as the the movie follows him through his childhood and his young adulthood so there there is a lot there's a lot of character development to pack into this story and it sort of follows the the fate of this kid and of this painting Katie. Would you think a dark secret about me as a reader is I really am not generous wis.. It's morally questionable characters so I think in order like you're supposed to be in order to be an intelligent reader your supposed to appreciate morally A. and big. US or even morally repugnant characters because they're interesting. I can't stand them. I'm a nice person right like do do it in the streets apparently able in the sheets of a book. Yes the book. Write it on a bathroom. Okay life so what made the book interesting to me was that the central question of the book is a question of moral ambiguity like a boy away who is very recently concussed has just been in a has just been the victim of a terrorist attack plucks painting out of a museum because he thinks he's supposed post to because a dying man has told him to and then as he gets older he realizes what he's done and it becomes a dark web kind of closing in in on him what he's done and the sorts of people who want in on what he's done somehow the movie didn't capture that complexity to the character of Theo. I'm very judgy of unlikeable. Characters is the pithy way of saying it that is a fundamental part of who theo is is that the way that he processes the trauma of losing his mother and being in that explosion is by getting into some really shady stuff and I think the the elgort performance manages to lose that but also doesn't gain any charisma so felt like a very flat performance to me and not performance is central to you have to care about him if you're going to care about this story. He's the one that makes you believe that. The painting is magical. He's the one that makes you believe that the object of his affection is Helen of Troy like worth all affection and that his caretaker is as benevolent as he is. There's so much magic that the book has time came to expand upon through. Theo's is the movie didn't give you so. I came out feeling Gosh. That was awfully pretty gosh. I'm glad I read that Gorgeous Book Doc. Gosh why I'm hungry. It was long. That was the last thing hunger what you came out all right. How about you Chris Yeah. I didn't quite finish the novel before I saw the movie because it is a few pages shy of eight hundred pages so it is about three times the length of a typical novel so even a two and a half hour movie movie is a very hurried very condensed adaptation of this. I think I agree with with Katie's macro critique of how the you know. The movie tells the story and loses nearly all the subtext I sort I thought I would enjoy that more because Theo is the narrator of the novel and we get a little bit of voice over from him in the film but not very much not in his his head you know living with his perceptions the way you are for every word of this again eight hundred page book. I think this movie needed a director with a more a deft hand at combining time period. This is a you know a film and novel that jumps back and forth between our Neri narrators thirteen and when he's I dunno twenty eight or thirty or something Christopher Nolan is a director who does this this really well. Sorry I know always the person defending the Chris Nolan movie in this in this corner but he might have found a way to make it even longer that's not fair. That's got dunkirk but yeah but that thing that this film attempts were were were making the something that is chronologically prior to most of what we've seen gene feel like the emotional climax of the film that is the kind of card trick that he can pull off in this director John Crouch John Crowley who made Brooklyn which I which I like very much. That's a much much much simpler story. It's linear. I don't mean to diminish her or Sarandon's performance but I mean she's not morally conflicted in the way that that answer low Gorz that that Theo is in in this movie. I think that's a great a great adaptation this just I yeah it feels hammy plotting kind of workmanlike. I think it diminishes the book doc somewhat of the same reaction one thing that I kept thinking throughout this movie was why is this a movie and not and I don't mean like why is this a movie like why does is this exist. I'm not sitting there with my arms folded but I'm thinking why isn't this and this is this is gonNA sound counterintuitive. Why isn't this an eight hour series. Why isn't this I mean. This is Amazon Studios. They could have made this as a as a long form TV project and given the filmmakers time to dry out these characters a little a bit better. This is an epic story. This is seven hundred seventy three page book. This is a two and a half hour movie and the movie somehow feels both rushed and slow oh and that's a really tough combination because they're racing through all these plot machinations and I just kept sitting there and it felt longer than two and a half hours. I just kept sitting there thinking. I don't feel like I'm getting to know these characters. I can tell we're a long way from the ending and yet at the same time at weirdly weirdly doesn't feel like anything's happening even though they're so much plot I found the experience of watching the movie to be really frustrating as much as it. It is beautifully shot. I think there are some lovely performances and then I think it's very nicely cast think oaks vaguely as young was a non he was. Aso Oh he was also in Pete's Dragon. Which is I know I've heard the name oaks vaguely before I think he's terrific. I think fin wolf hard as the OS Ukrainian best friend and that he meets when he has been transported to the horrors of the outskirts of Las Vegas. He meets this. He meets this kid. Boris played by and Woolford who has really thick accent and I'm so used to seeing fin wolf heart in the movies or in stranger things but I thought that was a strangely lovely performance really affecting performance. I liked the child actors in this a little bit more than some of the grownup performances. There are all these little components of it that I like. It's shot by Roger Deacons. WHO's an amazing cinematographer awesome. I was kind of a standard with his credit came up at the end because this is not a movie that I mean it's mostly indoors it. You know it doesn't have the kind of big visas of movies like bladerunner when she finally went his Oscar for or you know sicario or the Coen brothers movies he's made but yeah I I was surprised because it just felt like TV for me and not you know not prestige. TV necessarily kind of well. I think wow I mean I do but I do think that's part of it as it did feel like it had the tone of like a like a big little lies tight type story and partly because it enter Cole Kidman but like it felt like it should be on TV. I think that's right because the book itself self is also incredibly episodic. You have and she does this. I mean this is a very secret history a little friend kind of thing to do where she is interested in the interplay of these different worlds of being in the busy the teaming space of New York and the upper east side and then being in this wasteland of Las Vegas and then being the places you go and her books and the way that like class and police and person rub up against each other is is very important and again every idea in this movie feels very unfinished. He obviously understood that thing about class that she's talking about. He understood the thing about you know first impression and art and an in how trauma plays but everything only gets a glancing blow and had it banned you know here is the episode with Boris in Amsterdam. Here is the episode bestowed with Boris and unless Vegas. I think you would have gotten a little more of that and you know what would have been really nice as you know because the book doesn't really have a doesn't land the plane really you're really just sort of circling over a philosophy rather than a a plot ending you would have given the viewer more time to develop it on their own so I I walked out feeling sort of confused and I didn't have that feeling of you know even though I did feel the book's ending is finished I i. I still felt that I'd had an experience of all these things. There was a lot to talk about. There was a lot to think about. I did not feel this here except there was a lot to love in the apartment. I do want to shoutout Oh. My God will be but also hoagies apartment beautiful. I liked all the apartments actually the glimpses you got of the Os the apartment art that deals with his mother and the barber's so the Barbara's are the wealthy family that I take. Theo in immediately after the explosion and e barber is he's a friend of the owes a classmate they were closer as young boys than they are now but they take him in and misses Barbara's played by Nicole Kidman. Who who I gotta say has never I'm not in a coal kidman person and so I think one of the places that this movie faltered for me is it she was like a black hole and the camera just rested on her face gazing at Theo thoughtfully and I was like this is wasted time is not an idea exactly and like that so much of how she actually acts through her cheek bones those are the antenna you know you're watching them for curry action and just like the little movements at the corner of her mouth and I don't Act Shoe Willie find that very interesting. I'm cheekbone person. I like a good cheek bone but it felt felt contractual. It felt like Ms Kidman requires no fewer than fifteen minutes of close up on cheek and the character both in I will say this. This is true in the book and the Movie Opens Up Santa Clara yes in her older age. She her family encounters major tragedy that that compounds the sympathy see that she was already forming for Theo but when we're talking about these weird drops into melodrama added melodrama that was not necessary because the story sorry could be dramatic if you let it breathe a little bit more so like too much time on Kidman. She did not work for me. I did actually like her at her oldest eight in the movie. I saw all of her performances written on top of each other. I saw in your wife like a close match of the way that Hart describes the character but you don't have to do it. Exactly the way tart describes the character you can cast someone else you go a different direction. You know you can still you. An adaptation is not a straight st translation right. I do want to say one thing because if people do not want to see this movie which I would certainly understand after this conversation I will say the book itself is one if those wonderfully meandering tales that actually benefits from the time you spend reading it you know you dip into it for a new episode and the writing eating is absolutely incandescent the descriptions of the furniture the look at Las Vegas the even the descriptions of some of the emotions like the tears ears that fall out of his face that are unconnected to I mean they're they're all of these moments in the book that really stick with you and I will say I do think it is absolutely worth whatever time time you put in to this book too so I agree. I just you

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