Everything is beautiful in John Crowley's adaptation of "The Goldfinch ," even the grilled cheese sandwich that a kind stranger makes for a boy who has just lost his mother. It's easy to get swept up by the refined stateliness surrounding this messy odyssey of grief and trauma. But like its well-pressed and repressed Anglo-Saxon protagonists, the film keeps the drama, the emotion and the catharsis at a tidy and safely compartmentalized distance, making the experience of sitting with this two and a half hour film a unique and perplexing one.

Adapted from Donna Tartt's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "The Goldfinch" isn't a failure, but it's not a success either. It's an ambitious effort from a hoard of talented people, including Crowley, cinematographer Roger Deakins and actors like Nicole Kidman that gets a bit lost in its literary quirks while attempting to do everything and include everyone. It's the kind of dense, decade-spanning material that perhaps would have been better served by a miniseries like HBO has done with "My Brilliant Friend."

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