A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Something good can come from something bad. People live and die, but art is forever. More than messages, the movie presents questions to be debated. Themes include survival vs. resilience and the loss of innocence.
Positive Role Models
Two empathetic adults provide Theo with attention and care following his mother's death. One is the mother of a classmate who takes him in, nurtures his artistic interests, advocates for him. The other is James "Hobie" Hobarth, who becomes Theo's companion and mentor; he sees beat up, neglected items as beautiful objects of value that he lovingly restores to pristine state. Teens engage (by choice) in the arts, are interested in literature, classical music, fine art. But teens also smoke, drink, do drugs.
Violence & Scariness
Main character attempts suicide. A child experiences an explosion in an art museum; he must walk through a trail of bodies and rubble. A couple instances of physical child abuse. Main character is involved in a deadly shoot-out.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Explores different kinds of love (platonic, motherly, unrequited, etc.). Couples kiss, and an engaged couple is seen waking up in the same bed. Artwork of a naked woman hangs on the wall in the background.
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Liberal use of "f--k," plus "s--t," "pr--k," "twat," "a--hole," "hell," "goddamn." "Oh my God" and "Jesus" used as exclamations.
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Products & Purchases
While there's a reverence for antique furniture labels/designers, such as Chippendale, no modern-day brands are given a focus (although a container of Morton Salt is positioned prominently in one scene).
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Main character has a drug habit. Substance abuse is prevalent: Adults smoke, drink, pop prescription pills constantly. Middle school students smoke cigarettes. High school students drink beer, vodka, smoke cigarettes, take various drugs -- including a scene in which it's demonstrated how to intensify a high by cutting a pill into a powder and then snorting it. A child recovering from a serious injury shares her medicinal morphine lollipop.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Goldfinch is a drama-mystery based on Donna Tartt's 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The story focuses on Theo Decker (played at different ages by Oakes Fegley and Ansel Elgort) and a valuable painting he takes from a museum after a terrorist attack kills his mother. The bombing and its aftermath include upsetting images; additional violence includes a suicide attempt, child abuse, and gunplay. Smoking and drug and alcohol abuse are rampant among both adults and teens; one scene demonstrates how to cut up prescription drugs to intensify a high. There's not too much sexual content, but you can expect plenty of strong language ("f--k," "s--t"). Lies, betrayals, and gambling all have consequences, and the story plays with our notions of what makes a person -- or an outcome -- "good" or "bad." Nicole Kidman, Luke Wilson, Jeffrey Wright, and Finn Wolfhard co-star. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Just like the antique Chippendale antique restorations that Theo sells, this movie's source material is exquisite, but the changes applied to transform the piece degrade the entire product. Not that adapting the story could ever be considered an easy task: Tartt's novel is nearly 800 pages long, and a great deal of it is Theo's internal struggle and dialogue. But unfortunately, the big-screen Goldfinch doesn't sing, it warbles -- and, at two and a half hours, you might wish you could silence it. Still, it offers quite a bit of chewy content to contemplate, discuss, and debate.
The story is a complete original, but the movie does feel like a couple we've seen before. When Theo is a child, it's like Stand by Me -- young teens bond over loss, abuse, and the unfairness of life. When he's a young man, it's more Bright Lights, Big City: A handsome 20-something New Yorker battles his demons with drugs as he tries to settle his affairs of the heart and get on the right path. The Goldfinch does boast memorable performances: Nicole Kidman's poised, proper, yet caring and protective temporary foster mother; Sarah Paulson as the chain-smoking girlfriend of Theo's actor-turned-gambler dad; and Finn Wolfhard as Theo's bad-influence best friend. It all adds up to what might be best described as an empathy hot pot -- not so much a tearjerker, but once the credits roll, you realize your heart is fully cooked.
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