Director John Crowley’s “The Goldfinch” just debuted to one of the worst openings ever for Warner Bros. Pictures. Earning $870,000 on 2,542 screens, the adaptation of the Donna Tartt bestseller starring Ansel Elgort as the troubled survivor of a terrorist attack belly-flopped at the box office following poor reviews and an ill-received Toronto International Film Festival bow. It’s unlikely to cross $3 million at the weekend box office.
The writing was on the walls when even the stars of the sprawling epic publicly said that they wished the film was something else. “The Goldfinch” star Sarah Paulson told Deadline, “In my dream world, they would have made this a four-part miniseries, with each section having its own evening event, just so that you could mine everything in this book.” Elgort, meanwhile, wished the film was a play, according to a recent Huffington Post interview.
“The Goldfinch,” Crowley’s follow-up to Best Picture-nominated “Brooklyn,” was excoriated by critics out of TIFF. Budgeted at over $40 million and released on September 13, the film was not well-positioned to succeed.
IndieWire critic David Ehrlich, in his review, wrote: “The big problem with ‘The Goldfinch’ — a lifeless film that doesn’t consist of scenes so much as it does an awkward jumble of other, smaller problems stacked on top of each other like kids inside a trench coat — is that it mistakes its source material for a great work of art. That critical error isn’t an overestimation of Donna Tartt’s blockbuster novel of the same name, so much as it is a categorical mischaracterization. Perhaps even an unavoidable one.”
One of the film’s ambitious set pieces involves a recreation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which is then destroyed by a bombing early in the film. The novel, and the film, span years in the life of Elgort as Theodore, who tumbles into drug addiction and a life of crime in the wake of his mother’s death. This is the first of Donna Tartt’s novels — including must-read pageturner “The Secret History” and Southern gothic melodrama “The Little Friend” — to be adapted to the big screen.
It’s safe to say the Oscar chatter for “The Goldfinch,” already muted, ends here.