A HIP EXUBERANT MOUTH WATERING SENSUAL DELICIOUS PSYCHOLOGICAL YOU ARE DUMB IF YOU DON’T GET IT MOVIE REVIEW OF “THE GOLDFINCH” by Gary Smolker, Movie Reviewer, Values Critic, Social Commentator and Trial Attorney.
I saw THE GOLDFINCH on Monday night, September 16, 2019.
Many reviewers think this movie is going to bomb.
One reviewer thinks this movie likely to become one of cinema history’s biggest flops after making only $2.6 million at the US box office on its opening weekend.
Another reviewer, the Wall Street Journal reviewer, thinks it’s the worse movie ever made, at least the part he didn’t sleep through.
WHAT IS THE GOLDFINCH MOVIE ABOUT?
While I was watching THE GOLDFINCH I didn’t know what it was about.
At the end of the movie, the person I saw the movie with said, “The characters were better than the story!”
I agreed because I still didn’t know what the story was about or even if there was a story.
After thinking about the movie intently on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and discussing the movie for about two hours with a very intelligent couple, I concluded the movie does tell a story as it is sending a strong important message.
The important message THE GOLDFINCH sends is knowledge gives you an edge, lack of intellectual flexibility and doubt will get you into trouble because love and expectations of appropriate behavior trump everything.
Accurately and quickly communicating emotions to one another is of critical importance to the human species.
You never know what is going to decide your future.
THE OPENING SCENE
In the opening scene the main character (a young well dressed man) is in a hotel room in Amsterdam about to commit suicide.
The next scenes are flash backs to a series of events that happened in his life – some just happened and some he caused.
These events lead to him being in that hotel room in the opening scene -ready to give up on life by committing suicide.
NEXT FEW SCENES
In the next scene the young man who was about to commit suicide in the first scene is a small young boy richly and stylishly attired holding his mother’s hand in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan.
We can tell from the clothes he is wearing and from the clothes she is wearing that they are wealthy members of high society.
Such attire is expected in many places and situations in Manhattan and you will not be seated in some formal restaurants if you don’t comply.
After a brief dialog with her son, she leaves her son – near a gift shop – to look at a painting in a nearby gallery.
Immediately, or soon after she leaves her son, there is a loud explosion, a bomb explodes.
The screen is filled with bellowing smoke, dense clouds of smoke make the contents of room in which we are looking invisible.
Eventually the boy becomes visible in a thick smoke filled room. The boy is surrounded by dead bodies.
The young boy begins to search in another smoke filled room for his mother.
He sees an old distinguished looking well dressed man sitting up.
He goes towards the old distinguished looking well dressed man.
The old man points to a painting on the floor in the rubble; he tells the boy to pick up the painting and keep it.
The boy picks the painting up and puts it in a bag.
The man takes a ring off one of his figures and gives his ring to the boy.
He tells the boy to bring the ring to an antique furniture dealer in Manhattan.
He tells the boy to ring a buzzer located in an alley behind the antique store to meet the man to whom he is to show the ring.
The boy is instructed the back door will be opened after the boy pushes a buzzer on a wall in the alley next to the door.
From the clothing the old man is wearing, the ring he gave the young boy, and from the both of them being in the Metropolitan Art Museum we know the old man is a very wealthy, knowledgeable, debonair art aficionado and the young well dressed boy is a member of a wealthy high society family.
The director has played to our expectations of what rich high society people look like.
We believe we know “what” and “who” the young well dressed boy and the old distinguished looking well dressed man are because of what they are wearing.
THE STORY PROGRESSES
We learn that from a newspaper article that is shown on the screen that the masterpiece (THE GOLDFINCH) was destroyed in the explosion at the Metropolitan Museum and that the boy whose mother was killed by the bomb exploding in the Metropolitan Museum has been taken in by a high society family.
We see well and expensively-dressed Nicole Kidman talking to the young boy in her home.
We know from that scene that Nicole Kidman is the mother in the high society household who has given refuse to the young boy.
We see that the furniture, furnishings, wall paper, and carpets in that home are elegant.
The collection of furniture and furnishings meets our expectations of what a wealthy high society home will look like.
However, in real life, home-life is not wonderful in that home.
The man of the house, Nicole Kidman’s husband, is a sociopath.
ADOPTIVE FAMILY’S SOCIAL PATHOLOGY
In the next scenes, we are shown the young boy’s adaptive family eating dinner at a formal dinner table.
At the family dinner table the father creates arguments and disputes.
The father is aggressively dominating and verbally abusive.
We see: There was no pleasant conversation at the dinner table.
The dinner table was not a place where soft music was playing, pleasant conversations were taking place, or a place that had the emotionally soothing and pleasantly intoxicating glow of friendship in action.
The family dinner is chaotic experience, not a cozy restful interlude after a full day, not a place where one can find order, predictability and/or orderly pleasant rituals bring practiced.
THE STORY CONTINUES
In a series of succeeding scenes the young boy’s father appears.
He has an imperious manner.
He is wiry and energetic.
He is compelling, a likeable talker.
We have previously been told, the young boy’s father had walked out on his wife (the young boy’s mother) and had abandoned the young boy when the young boy was quite young.
The young boy’s father suddenly walks into Nicole Kidman’s house accompanied with a dazzlingly sexy girlfriend, announces that he is the boy’s father and that he has come to take the boy with him to his home in Las Vegas.
The father tells Nicole Kidman that he is a successful musician who lives and performs in Las Vegas.
I could tell from the clothes the father was wearing and the loudness of his voice that he was not a successful musician.
He is a breezy person who glad-hands people.
His clothes and demeanor are out of nowhere, so out of place, that the suspicious amongst us (myself for example) suspect the young boy’s father is up to no good.
However, in real life we tend to judge a person’s honesty based on their demeanor.
Well-spoken, confident people with a firm handshake who are friendly and engaging are seen as believable.
Some people believe over evolutionary time the face developed into a billboard for the heart. They believe a person’s demeanor is a window into their soul.
That is – to put it mildly – nonsense.
A liar can act like an honest person.
We later find out that the young boy’s father is an emotionally disturbed person.
Looking backward, as we learn more about the father we realize the clothes the young boy’s father wears as the movie progressed – from the moment he appears in the movie throughout the entire time he is on the screen – in hindsight match exactly how we think an emotionally disturbed person would dress.
The clothes the father wears as the movie progresses coherently carries the story forward.
THE NEXT SCENES ARE SET UP TO PROVIDE US WITH EVIDENCE THAT THE YOUNG BOY’S FATHER IS A DESPICABLE EMOTIONALLY DISTURBED PERSON
After the young boy’s father appears in the movie, viewers struggle to assess the father’s honesty, his intent, his character.
Viewers ask themselves:
- Why did the young boy’s father show up out of nowhere?
- Why has the young boy’s father come out of nowhere to take his young son from a rich stable life in Manhattan to live with him in Las Vegas?
When viewers see where the father lives and how he lives in “his house” in Las Vega – viewers learn one alarming fact after another about the young boy’s father.
Viewers learn the father is a gambling addict who is perennially in debt.
The home the father lives in is located in a large failed housing tract development on the outskirts of Las Vegas — almost all the the other houses in the failed housing tract are empty. They are boarded up. They have for sale signs posted on them.
They have been foreclosed on; they are boarded up; they are for sale.
- Is the father a squatter?
- Does the father own the house he is living in?
- Does the father, the father’s girlfriend, and the young boy have the right to be living in the house the father is living in?
After the young boy, and his father, and his father’s glitzy sexy girlfriend arrive at the father’s home, the father tells his young son he has made a lot of money and that he wants to put $10,000 in a bank account to be there for his son to use when his son graduates from high school and goes to college.
The young son believes his father.
Next the young boy’s father tells his young son that he [the father] needs his son’s social security number in order to open a savings account for his son
The young son believes his father.
The young boy’s father asks his young son to tell him his social security number.
The young boy gives his father his social security number.
As the story/film progresses, the young boy continues to believe his father, that his father has/had good intentions, until he couldn’t anymore.
When the young boy gave his father his social security number he didn’t suspect anything was amiss.
He had no doubt that everything was okay.
In real life accumulating evidence to overwhelm our doubts takes time.
A PROFOUND FRIENDSHIP TRANSFORMS THE YOUNG BOY’S LIFE
While living in an almost deserted housing tract on the outskirts of Las Vegas, the young boy strikes up a friendship with another young boy.
The other young boy is a Russian, actually a Ukrainian.
One day the young boy asks his Russian friend where he is from.
The Russian boy gives the young boy the names of many countries, and explains that his father is a mining engineer and that they travel from country to country where his father works in mines.
The Russian also tells the young boy that his father killed a man in a mine recently, and that is why they left that country and came to the United States, where they are now.
As the young boy is leaving his friend’s house one evening, he looks back and sees the Russian father has come home and is vigorously beating his son with a stick.
If you know that many of the horribly violent men in history that were psychopathic murders (such as Adolph Hitler) had abusive fathers you have a foretaste of what is going to happen as the story progresses.
BACK TO THE MOVIE: These two boys appear to be the only two kids living in that huge housing tract.
They go to school together.
ASIDE: It was not clear to me whether they were going to middle school or to high school together.
The story/movie progresses.
One day, the Russian boy visits the young boy’s house.
In the young boy’s house the Russian sees the young boy’s father’s girl-friend very sexually sunning herself in a bikini in the backyard next to a backyard swimming pool.
The Russian boy opens a cabinet in the kitchen. In the cabinet, he finds a clear see through package full of pills with the marking V marked on the package.
The young boy tells his Russian friend that the pills are his father’s girlfriend’s vitamins.
The Russian replies: “No they are Vicodin, a powerful narcotic.”
From that point forward, the Russian friend supplies the young boy with drugs when they hang out together.
Many scenes follow.
In those scenes the two of them (the Russian friend and the young boy) are taking drugs together and getting high together.
One afternoon the boy’s father comes home.
He confronts his son in the kitchen of their home,
- “I need $65,000 to purchase a restaurant.”
- “Call your mother’s attorney. Tell him you want to go to a private school. You need $65,000 to pay tuition.”
- Then he slaps his son in the face. Then he says, “Do it, now!”
The boy calls a law firm and asks to be talk to his deceased mother’s attorney.
The boy is put through to the attorney.
When his deceased mother’s attorney comes on the line, he tells him he needs $65,000 to pay tuition to go to a private school.”
The attorney replies,
- “Glad you called. I didn’t know how to get in touch with you.”
- “I am not allowed – by the terms of your mother’s trust fund set up for you – to send you money for school tuition directly.”
- “Give me contact information for the school, and I will send the money directly to the school.”
- “By the way, someone tried to use your social security number to get unauthorized access to your trust funds.”
- “Do you know anything about that.”
The boy hangs up the phone without answering.
The father is enraged, silent for a stunned moment.
The story told in the film continues.
An ominous looking man knocks on the door of the home while the father is gone.
The young boy opens the door. The stranger asks if the boy’s father is home. The boy says, “No.”
The stranger gives the boy his name, then asks the boy to pass along to his father the message that the stranger came to visit him.
During a later scene in the movie, the young boy’s father’s girl friend and a bunch of her friends are shown in the living room crying.
The young boy asks, “What is going on?”
The girl-friend answers, “Your father drove into the desert.”
The young boy responds, “So?”
The girl-friend responds, “Your father will not be returning. He is dead.”
At that point in the movie, the young boy decides he must leave, he must go back to Manhattan to seek refuge with the antique’s dealer’s partner who he had met shortly after the bomb explosion that killed his mother and killed the distinguished gentleman – the distinguished gentleman who gave him a ring and told him to take a picture laying in the rubble to an antique furniture shop.
The young boy packs his things, including the bag that he thinks contains the picture he picked up in the rubble after the explosion in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan.
The young boy has not touched the picture since he wrapped it in newspaper and packed it in his bag so long ago while looking for his dead mother in the rubble at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The young boy tells his Russian friend they must go to Manhattan, they must escape right away.
In the next scene, the young boy is standing next to a taxi cab with his Russian friend, he tells his Russian friend, “Come with me. We must go now.”
His Russian friend replies, “I can’t go right now. I’ll come join you tomorrow or the next day.”
In the next scenes we see the young boy in the cab, then in a bus, then on a train or a subway, traveling alone to Manhattan.
THE YOUNG BOY HAS BEEN TAUGHT CRITICAL SURVIVAL SKILLS
Earlier in the movie we were shown a series of scenes in which the young boy goes to the antique shop, meets the distinguished man’s partner and meets the young girl that was with the distinguished man in the gallery when the bomb explosion killed his mother.
The young boy is “taken in” by the distinguished gentleman’s partner when he shows up at the antique furniture store and shows the man the ring the distinguished gentleman had given him.
While the young boy is living with the high society family the distinguished gentleman’s partner becomes a “father figure” to the young boy.
The young boy visits the gentleman’s partner and the injured girl while he is living with the high society family and when he returns to Manhattan after his escape from his father’s home on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
The distinguished gentleman’s partner teaches the young boy critical skills for survival while he is becoming a “father figure.”
The young boy’s “father figure” teaches the young boy skills that will enable the young boy to be self-sustaining, self-sufficient.
He teaches the young boy about antique furniture, how to restore antique furniture, how to make antique furniture reproductions. how to tell the difference between an antique piece of furniture a restored piece of antique furniture and a reproduction of a piece of antique furniture, and how to talk about antique furniture.
A CHANCE ENCOUNTER
The young boy lives with the nice man (father figure) in the Antique Furniture Store when returns to Manhattan.
The antique furniture shop succeeds wildly as a result of the young boy taking on the role of salesman in the antique furniture store.
One day, by chance, he meets Nicole Kidman’s eldest son on the street.
The eldest son tells the young boy (who is now a young man) that his (the elder son’s) brother and father are dead.
He is sure his mother and his sister would love to see the young man.
He invites the young man to come with him to his mother’s house.
He goes with the eldest son to their home – where with great surprise and warmth he is greeted by Nicole Kidman and her now beautiful daughter.
A warm relationship ensues, so warm that the daughter and the now young man decide to marry.
ANOTHER CHANCE ENCOUNTER
One night while the young man is out, he sees the woman he is about to marry with another man.
He steps into a flower shop so that the woman will not see him.
From the flower shop he sees her lovingly kissing another man.
A creepy customer comes into the antique furniture shop.
He tells the young man (the former young boy) that he bought an antique that really wasn’t an antique. It was a reproduction of an antique.
The young man tells the creepy customer there must have been a mistake, the antique furniture store will buy back that piece of furniture, give the man his money back.
The creepy customer tells the young man, “That is not what I want.”
The young man replies, “Of course, we will pay you a $10,000 premium.”
The creepy customer replies:
- “I know who you are.”
- “You are the boy whose mother died in the bomb explosion in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”
- “I know you have the painting that went missing after the explosion, “THE GOLDFINCH.” “I want you to sell it to me.” “I will pay you $500,000 for it.” “If you don’t sell it to me I will report you to the FBI.”
The young man replies: “You are crazy.” “I don’t have THE GOLDFINCH.” “Report me to the FBI.”
After the young man and the creepy customer part company, the young man calls his drug dealer.
He tells his drug dealer he needs to purchase drugs.
The drug dealer tells him to go to a specific bar, then meet and talk to so and so in the bar.
ANOTHER CHANCE ENCOUNTER
By chance the young man then runs into his boyhood friend, the Russian boy who supplied him with dope while he was living with his father in Nevada, on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
The Russian boy is now a young man, a very successful young man.
The Russian tells his boyhood friend, that he has been searching for him.
He tells him that he owes his success as a drug dealer to him.
He tells him that night when he didn’t get into the taxi cab with the young boy he had something important to say, but didn’t say it.
He wanted to tell his friend that he had taken his painting; he wanted to tell him he saw the painting in the bag when his young friend was high on drugs, decided it was valuable and took it.
The Russian now tells the young man he now wants to make amends.
The young man tells the successful Russian Drug Dealer Kingpin that he wants to return the painting to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The successful Russian Drug Dealer Kingpin tells him he no longer has the painting, but he will help the young man get it back.
THIS IS WHERE, WHILE WATCHING THE MOVIE, I BEGAN TO SIT ON THE EDGE OF MY SEAT
What happened next in the movie was not only suspenseful and dramatic it was simultaneously unbelievable and believable.
I recommend that you see the movie to find out what happens next.
THE GOLDFINCH is a movie of interrelated tender sub-plots.
Each sub-plot [standing-alone] is a hip highly biased – full of editorial content – portrayal of the human condition.
Each story portrayed in each sub-plot presents a myth destroying message.
The idea that people’s behavior and demeanor – the way they present themselves on the outside – always presents an authentic and reliable window into the way they feel on the inside is debunked.
Dishonesty and stupidity are everywhere.
The acting and costuming in THE GOLDFINCH are extraordinary.
The cinematography is spectacular.
VALUE LADEN SHORT STORIES
There are many value laden short stories – subplots – in this movie.
My favorite character is the Russian boy (masterly played by Aneurin Barnard) who becomes the young boy’s life long loyal friend.
RISKING LIFE AND LIMB
This Russian boy risks his life and limb doing a “favor” for his best friend.
What the Russian boy does for his friend – the main character – and how he does it in this film is suspenseful and complicated.
What the Russian boy does for his friend is shown at the end of the film in a series of action scenes that kept me on the edge of my seat.
HEAD AND HEART
My favorite sub-plot in this movie takes place when the main character leaves his finance at a party they are at, they are ostensibly celebrating their upcoming marriage.
He tells his fiance he is going away for a few days.
She knows he will never be coming back.
He walks out on her because while he was on a walk alone a few nights before the party he saw her kiss another man.
He knew then that she loved the other man.
When he confronts her, she admits she loves the other man but tries to convince him to marry her anyway.
She tells him that he and she are a good social match; that he marrying her will make her mother (Nicole Kidman) happy and will make her happy also.
HE WANTED IT ALL, HER HEAD AND HER HEART
He refused to settle for a good social match.
He wanted his wife to love him with a full heart.
It wasn’t enough for him that they got along, that she was smart and pretty, or that she was a member of a big shot distinguished social family or that he likes her mother.
This movie is as polished as a movie can be.
THE GOLDFINCH is a 2-1/2 hour film about making sense of people.
Success is no accident.
It takes perseverance.