An empty theater

“The Goldfinch” box office flop speaks to modern state of entertainment

Out of the hundreds of movies made each year, many of them are based on successful novels, classics and great works of literature. 

Cue the question, “how accurately does the movie portray the book?” – the hype, commentary and judgement centered on this question is immeasurable. 

In such a scene emerges Warner Bros’ “The Goldfinch,” based off Donna Tartt’s novel of the same name. With a release date on Friday, Oct. 13th, one might assume the film was doomed from the start – it’s projected as one of the year’s biggest ‘box office flops’ with projected losses reaching 50 million. 

The film follows the troubled life of Theo Decker after a tragic museum terrorist attack kills his mother. It’s run time is nearly two and a half hours – which is respectable since the book totals over 700 pages. Here lies one of the central issues with the production, however, as the movie has clearly failed to capture audiences with such a long and perhaps tedious timeline. But consensus among those that have read the book states that the movie reflects the book almost perfectly in production and plot. 

Movie producers have to appeal to the modern audience, which often leads to dramatized and sensationalized versions of a plot that everyone is worried will not sufficiently entertain those that have not read the book. Perhaps they have good reason, as the flop of “The Goldfinch” certainly has something to do with it’s long run-time and pretty solid adherence to a Pulitzer Prize winning book.

In essence, “The Goldfinch” is unfiltered. From a scene of a literal terrorist attack, child abuse and attempted suicide, the movie presents the twisted outcomes of dramatic events, but it does not attempt to simplify or dismiss the breadth of these emotional occurances. Rather, it takes time to set an appropriate aesthetic, mood and distinct character with the power to leave its audience in chills. With frequently-heard complaints of book-to-movie inconsistencies, one would assume that this empathetic and raw approach would satisfy.  

Unfortunately, a two-and-a-half-hour movie leaves most people exasperated, frustrated and simply does not appeal to modern-day audiences. 

I found a similar case with a memorial I used to see everyday in the center of Berlin, Germany. The ‘denkmal für die ermordeten juden europas’ (Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe) is a massive plot of nearly three-thousand grey boxes in various lengths stretched across a block-radius. It’s neither an efficient use of space, attractive nor does it represent the traditional conception of a ‘memorial,’ but it’s meant to evoke the feeling of loss, confusion and even sadness when walking through the stone blocks. Rather than an aesthetically appealing glossy coat, the memorial captures and reminds the passerby of the overwhelming darkness of that period of history. 

In many contexts, we like to think of literature and entertainment outside of the business or marketing fields, as the pleasure from reading and movies is simply not the same as a market transaction. 

Stating that the movie ‘moved’ his mother and had a lot of good in it, “The Goldfinch” star Ansel Elgort defended the production with perhaps a better conception of how the movie industry should work. The arts are meant to evoke emotion, and sometimes that requires an investment of focus and thought – and in most cases, one cannot expect real pleasure or fulfillment after giving only two seconds of attention.

~Kristen Ziccarelli, Staff Writer~


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