Mel Valentin
5 min readSep 14, 2019

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MOVIE REVIEW: ‘The Goldfinch’ Goes Where Many Adaptations Before Have Gone and Fails

Hello, long-dead, idealized mom.

There’s an art to adaptation, but adaptations aren’t always art. Condensing, compressing, and pruning plots and subplots, characters and backstories, dialogue and exposition has to be balanced against the inherent limitations of the new medium (from novel to film, for example). It can be a daunting, nearly impossible challenge for any filmmaker, especially when the adaptation in question involves a sprawling, 800-page, Pulitzer Prize-winning, literary novel like Donna Tartt’s 2013 novel, The Goldfinch (her first since 2002’s equally celebrated The Little Friend and her third overall after The Secret History) and the adapters are screenwriter Peter Straughan (Our Brand is Crisis, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and director John Crowley (Brooklyn). It’s a challenge Straughan and Crowley should have left for other filmmakers to handle or better yet, for a high-profile, prestige miniseries from a major cable or streaming company. While faithful to the outlines, shapes, and contours of Tartt’s boldly ambitious novel, Straughan and Crowley delivers an overly reverential, ultimately tedious, turgid, flaccid adaptation.

Almost all of the signs pointed favorably to the kind of prestige adaptation that generally receives multiple Oscar nominations in January (if not actual Academy Award wins). In addition to Crowley — he directed Saoirse Ronan to an Oscar nomination for…

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