On September 13th, director John Crowley releases his sixth feature film, a Warner Brothers and Amazon Studios adaptation of Donna Tartt’s 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, “The Goldfinch”. The film, which goes by the same title as the book, will be Crowley’s first film since his 2015 indie hit “Brooklyn” and it will star an impressive cast including Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, Finn Wolfhard, and Luke Wilson.
In addition to all of this talent on screen, there is a lot to be excited about behind the camera as well. The film’s two trailers show off a uniquely warm aesthetic through production design and costumes.
It is therefore no surprise that the film has some very exceptional individuals working in those departments. K.K. Barret, who received an Oscar nomination for creating the intricate world of Spike Jonez’s “Her”, is spearheading production design on “The Goldfinch”, and Kasia Walicka-Maimone, whose wardrobe work appeared prevalently in “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Ready Player One”, is leading costume design.
On top of these two astounding professionals creating the look of “The Goldfinch”, their work will be captured on camera by none other than Roger Deakins, the Oscar winning cinematographer behind “Blade Runner 2049”, “Skyfall”, and “No Country For Old Men”. All narrative aside, it is safe to assume that “The Goldfinch” will be a spectacular visual experience.
However, narrative cannot go un-noted when it comes to cinema, especially when the film in question is an adaptation of a renowned book. The two trailers seem to offer different versions of the same story about a boy who loses his mother in a museum explosion and grows up in the grieving shadow of this event.
The first trailer depicts the story as a straightforward coming-of-age family-drama, but the second trailer throws in hints of suspense, with scenes of the main character being questioned by authorities and withholding secrets about what is presumably a stolen piece of art.
Obviously, the movie is not trying to be any particular drama, and given that the screenplay comes from “Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy”, “The Snowman”, and “Frank” screenwriter Peter Straughan, “The Goldfinch” is bound to be narratively distinctive.
It thus feels like no risk to preemptively label “The Goldfinch” an art film. Although it was made on a somewhat lofty $40 million budget and has had more marketing than most indie flicks, it is far from a guaranteed blockbuster. If anything, it could be deemed Oscar-bait, but let’s not jump to Academy-anchored conclusions just yet.
Just because the film is based off of a revered novel and has emotionally charged trailers does not mean that it will find immense critical acclaim. It runs the risk of not living up to its source material, and also must beware of becoming emotionally overcharged or sappy. Consider films such as “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” or “Cloud Atlas”, both of which seemed like promising adaptations of acclaimed books with stellar casts and crew.
The outcomes, however, were somewhat underwhelming for a number of reasons—emotional and artistic over-saturation being just a couple of them. In total, Warner Brothers and Amazon Studios are taking in a big, juicy, tender bite by adapting “The Goldfinch”, hopefully they have the teeth to chew it and the stomach to handle it in a satisfying way.
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