Harriet Review

I don’t mean this to sound as dismissive as I know it will, but Harriet feels like the movie you would watch in history class when there is a half day or a substitute. It competently goes through the motions of telling the story of Harriet Tubman, with more than a little skill, but somewhat lacking in style.

I can’t really point to any area where Harriet fails. It starts with Tubman, then called Minty Ross, as a slave in Maryland. Her free husband and father contacted a lawyer to straighten out the fact that Minty and her mother were supposed to be freed under the terms of their old owners will, but his son has refused to do that. That appeal goes about as well as you’d expect. After Minty prayers for her master’s death are granted, his son tries to sell her off to repay some debts. Minty has had enough and decides to run away. With some help from the local preacher and a kindly Quaker, Minty escapes over a hundred miles to Philadelphia and takes the name Harriet Tubman.

Harriet does an excellent job both keeping the focus on Harriet and in giving a glimpse into a wide variety of black experiences under slavery. Harriet is one, though a unique one is some ways, still an experience that many shared. She was born into slavery, but escaped to freedom. She knows what it is like to live under that evil, and wants to do everything she can to end it or help others escape. Her husband and father are free men, but live in the slave-owning South and were at one time slaves themselves. They are still subject to Southern Racism, but have a different experience than Harriet and different reactions. There is also Harriet’s sister, who refuses to leave with her. It is easy to look at it as a lack of courage, but the movie shows how the system affects people, how Harriet’s sister fears for her young children, who it would be very hard to take with them and let’s that fear keep her enslaved. In Philadelphia, there are free African Americans who were born in freedom. They recognize the evils of slavery, but only kind of understand its corroding evil. I don’t mean to say they don’t treat it as real, but their reactions are more analytical. The movie gives a peek at all these different experiences, mostly through the lens of how they see Harriet and how Harriet sees them.

The biggest white role in the movie goes to Harriet’s would be owner, Gideon Brodess. The movie never falls into the all too common in Civil War movie trap of letting him, and his fellow slave owners, off the hook for the evil the perpetrate. At first it seems like it might, playing him as slightly sympathetic to Harriet before she runs away, but soon the facade is removed and the movie shows him for what he is. It is a deep ingrained callow selfishness, where he just doesn’t view these people as people. Even near the end, when Brodess does something that could maybe be called good, the movie shows the self interest behind it.

It is somewhat less successful in wrestling with Tubman’s faith. The movie acknowledges it, but doesn’t quite seem to understand it.  Harriet has nothing to say about its protagonists faith.  She may interpret her blackouts as visions from God, and the movie actually gives her visions during her faints, but it just sort of happens without comment,

Harriet is a perfectly fine, by the numbers biopic. But it is telling a story that shockingly, or maybe not that shockingly considering who the main character is and Hollywood’s determination to filter every story through a white lens, has not previously been put to film. It is well done and gives a glimpse into the life of a national hero. It does not, in any way reinvent the wheel, but sometimes all you need is a well-made wheel.

***1/2

Midway Review

Midway is this mishmash of old school war drama and new special effects and (some) new sensibilities. It ends up being more than a little charming, even if it isn’t particularly good. Of course, I am generally a fan of movies about propeller planes and melodrama. So Midway was pretty solidly up my alley.

Midway opens with a brief scene in Japan, before the war starts as intelligence officer Edwin Layton has a talk with Yamamoto about the potential for war. The movie then jumps forward to Pearl Harbor, and follows the Pacific front through the titular battle. It largely follows a few characters. Layton and Admiral Nimitz at Pearl Harbor, who have to decipher intelligence to find out where the Japanese are headed. It also focuses on the pilots of the carrier USS Enterprise as they fight in the Pacific. It all culminates in one of the most decisive battles of WWII.

The characters, all based on actual soldiers, are broadly drawn. The actors are talented and do what they can—though Ed Skrein and Luke Evan occasionally struggle with the American accents—but the action is spread around too much to really get more than a broad feel for any of them. Skrein is the star as pilot Dick Best. He is a talented pilot, but his superiors are hesitant to put him in charge of a flight. Layton is played by Patrick Wilson, who is always great and generally underappreciated. It also occasionally checks in with the Japanese as they plan a surprise attack on Midway, and in a surprising movie it shows them as people, not just as enemies.

The flying scenes are exhilarating. I enjoy, at a certain level, any movie about flying small aircraft. This movie does an excellent job with it. It feels like a roller coaster as the pilots turn into a dive bombing run. And it has a lot of dogfighting.

One scene that stands out, I guess in a bad way, is the brief snippets showing Doolittle’s Raid on Tokyo. Aaron Eckhart plays Doolittle as he conducts his daring raid by taking off from carriers in the pacific, flying over Japan and landing in China. His bits of the movie are small and the raid is at least tangentially related to the Battle of Midway, in the way that all of the war in the Pacific was related. It really feels like this little detour is in the movie for how it ends. Doolittle crash lands in China, and with the help of Chinese civilians manages to evade Japanese patrols and escape. While a movie about Doolittle’s Raid would be interesting, it appears to be in this movie so it can be sold in China.

Midway is just a generally enjoyable war movie. Good actors giving decent performances, some exhilarating action. It is historically accurate enough to pass without anything really standing out as just being wrong. I don’t expect to see it on any top 10s at the end of the year, but I liked watching it.

***

The Current War Review

You can see a great movie hidden somewhere in The Current War, but it remains unilluminated in this release. This isn’t a bad movie, but it is a muddled mix of strong performances and unclear themes.

To start with, Michael Shannon is amazing. In this movie and also in every other movie I’ve seen him in. The rest of the cast is good as well; Cumberbatch holds up his end against Shannon pretty well, but his is the showier, yet somehow less memorable part. Tom Holland, Katherine Waterston, Nicholas Hoult, Mathew Macfayden all appear and are fine.

Where the movie seems to be muddled is in its very thesis. It contrasts Edison and Westinghouse, but the movie never really gives the viewer any reason to see Edison as anything other than a villain. The movie doesn’t treat him like a villain; it seems to think of him as a hero, but the movie never shows him do anything that isn’t at least a little bit contemptible. When he is forced out of his own company near the end, the movie frames it as tragic, but it seems pretty deserved. Westinghouse, using a conglomeration of patents and other people’s technology, builds an effective alternating current electric grid. His goal is to sell it to Edison and make them both a bunch of money while making electric power accessible to the masses. Edison won’t even meet with him. He refuses to consider anything but his own direct current system, claiming that ac is dangerous despite having no proof. When Westinghouse feels forced to go it alone, Edison pretty much immediately plays dirty. Westinghouse kind of does the same, but his dirty play is just to expose the truth about Edison.

The movie tries to soften Edison by showing him with his family; mostly of him ignoring them to do his work. It also has him harping on his refusal to build something designed to kill a man, which supposedly drives his refusal to work with high voltage ac. But he also goes against that building an electric chair in an effort to smear Westinghouse. Basically, the movie only shows Edison at his worst, but then expects the viewer to feel something when Holland’s character, who has been Edison’s right hand throughout the movie, says he is glad he worked for Edison over Westinghouse. I just can’t figure out why. The movie would have been better with a greater focus on Westinghouse. It is slanted towards Edison, but it doesn’t give enough of Westinghouse’s reaction.

Still, the movie absolutely sparkles at times. When Westinghouse and Edison finally meet at the Chicago World’s Fair, it is a great scene. They have a conversation about achieving greatness, with the defeated Edison already anticipating his next great success. Westinghouse is magnanimous in victory. Nicholas Hoult’s brief appearances as Nikola Tesla are solid as well. He doesn’t have enough time to do a whole lot; he mostly establishes himself as a brilliant inventor who is bad at business.

This is a great looking movie with some excellent performances, but the whole thing feels like less than the sum of its parts. It is far from a disaster, but it is clearly not as good as it could have been.

***

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

The first Maleficent movie was one of the better Disney live action adaptations because it was one of the few that did more than slavishly recreate the animated movie. I mean, a version of the story where the bad guy is actually the good guy is not the most original thing, but at least it’s something. (I know I didn’t like Dumbo which did the same, but it was bad for other reasons). This sequel had the potential to be something really good and at times its seems poised to realize that potential, only for it to be kind of muddled and distracted. Early on, the movie, when Maleficent is preparing to meet her daughters new in laws, practicing small talk with her raven companion, hints at a much better version of this. A movie that builds to the conflict between Maleficent and fey against the humans. A comedy of manners that spirals out of control. Instead, the movie jumps right to a brewing war.

The problem is the movie has so much to get to that it can’t let any of it land. There is the marriage plot, the people kidnapping fairies, the dark fey, like Maleficent, who are itching for a fight with the humans. Much of it needs to be explained. But in the midst of all the explaining, there is little time for anything else. It also renders the heroes alternately moronic and inert. The connection between Aurora and Maleficent was established in the first movie, it doesn’t make a lot of sense how quickly she believes the worst of her. Maleficent has to get all of the history of the dark fey and their current situation in a quick dump, with no time to process finding a whole world of people just like her. Phillip’s mother Queen Ingrith is plotting a war, and the movie has to walk the viewer through it.

All of these plots could be interesting, if the movie either handled them with a lighter touch or had a little more time to work through them. It almost feels like the last two parts of a trilogy smashed together. Maleficent’s journey doesn’t quite work. She goes from distant, but loving mother, to spurned and hated, to prophesied hero over the course of this movie, but none of it really lands. No one else really has much of an arc. Aurora learns something she already knew. Everyone else learns that racism is bad.

At least the movie looks good. The magical creatures don’t exactly look real, but they look appealing. The fey are really well done, with their wings looking and acting like real appendages most of the time. It also has some awe inspiring castles and vistas. The movie simply looks good.

Angelina Jolie is pretty great as Maleficent. And Michelle Pfeiffer seems to be having fun as the evil Queen Ingrith. Elle Fanning has precious little to do as Aurora, and Prince Phillip spends most of the movie being ineffectual. It is just short of being a waste of a great cast, only saved by how much the actors seem to be enjoying themselves.

As messy as it is, I still largely enjoyed Maleficent Mistress of Evil. I don’t think it’s good, but there are enough interesting things going on that I don’t regret seeing it.

**1/2

Addams Family

I feel like I shouldn’t like this version of The Addams Family. Sure the character designs for this adhere pretty closely to the look from the original single panel comics, but the movie does all the things that tend to sink bad modern animated movies. Gratuitous pop culture references, obnoxious needle drops, star-studded voice casts that aren’t really voice actors, cardboard stories. Somehow, though, I found myself very entertained by it anyway. That might just be my natural affection for the Addams family. This movie turns their satire of old money weirdness into a tale about immigrants, but it keeps the charm of this group of delightful weirdos. It isn’t the best movie you are likely to see this year, but it is a more than passable way to spend 90 minutes.

The plot is barely worth recounting. The Addamses, the consummate weirdos that they are, are driven out of their home country, due to racism that feels sadly timely. They settle in a New Jersey swamp and begin to raise a family. Some fifteen or so years later, someone builds a housing development in the swamp and suddenly the Addams have neighbors. This is happening when the extended family is coming into town for Pugsley’s Mazurka ceremony, where he becomes an Addams man. Wednesday wants to learn more of the outside world and go to the local middle school. The ‘normal’ people clash with the Addams. Everyone learns some sort of lesson.

There are plenty of good bits with the people reacting to the strangeness of the Addams. Whether it is Wednesday and Pugsley being caged schooled, or the constant murder attempts, or anything with Fester, they are fun. The Addams Family works because they combine the outwardly spooky traits of the Addams with their treating everything like normal. They are a happy family that just so happens to be filled with psychopaths. The movie goes overboard with the ‘normal’ people though. Does the town need to be named Assimilation? DO they need to sing a song about how great it is to be just like everyone else? There is a movie where that stuff would work, but this movie is either pushing it too far or not pushing it far enough. Go full brainwashed weirdness with that stuff, or dump entirely. Doing just a little bit of it muddles exactly whether these are normal people or cult members. Actually, the Addams family would likely love to be living next to a cult. There are good individual sequences and a good message in this movie but it only barely overcomes the junk that would sink a movie with lesser characters at the heart. (See The Angry Birds movie.)

One way this movie was never going to satisfy me is that it wasn’t going to replace the 90’s movies as my favorite versions of these characters. I won’t claim to be overly familiar with the comics, but I did watch quite a bit of the TV show on stuff like Nick at Night (a quick google search suggests that Nick at Night never aired the Addams Family; so while I watched it somewhere in the early 90’s, it wasn’t there). The movies, especially the sequel Addams Family Values, are what I really loved. This movie was never going to be that. But I am judging what it is, not what it is not. This movie stays true to the characters and the family, has some good jokes and is rarely actively obnoxious, but just as rarely actually truly outstanding. It is worth seeing.

***

Gemini Man

Gemini Man is a movie I wish I liked more than I do. It is this weird juxtaposition of a throwback to 90’s sci-fi thrillers and a movie that is pushing technological boundaries as far as possible. Ang Lee is more thoughtful with his approach than I believe most directors would be, but this movie still feels like it did not fully consider the ramifications of the events in the plot. Still, as unsatisfying as the story ends up being, it does feature a collection of largely excellent actions scenes to make it at least worthwhile.

Will Smith plays Henry Brogan, a government assassin who feels the years catching up with him and decides to retire after nearly missing a shot on a job. He meets up with an old marine buddy, who uses his connections to look into the man Brogan just assassinated, and learned that he was not a terrorist like Brogan was told. Before they can go forward, the old friend his killed. Brogan realizes that he is next and teams with an agent sent to watch him, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, to escape and figure out what is going on. He is escaping from Clay Verris, who reveals that his top agent is a younger version of Brogan. After a few showdowns where neither agent can get the upper hand, Brogan gets to the bottom of things.

As I noted above, the action scenes are really good. There is an excellent motorcycle chase and a brutal fight in some catacombs. It is not quite John Wick, but they are good. It also is more worried about the inner lives of its characters, or at least with Brogan and Junior, than most action movies are. It is also just filled with terrible, obvious dialogue. Like early on when Brogan laments that he “hates looking in the mirror.” It was bad enough then, but later the movie calls back to that line to tie it directly to his struggle with his younger self. The movie is full of stuff like that. Its bad. The plot is wild, though mostly internally consistent. I’ve heard some people complain about dropped plots, but it holds together well enough if you just pay attention.

I know some people are really into the technical aspects of this movie, but I am at best neutral when it comes to what this movie does. I do not get the appeal of high frame rate. I understand what it is and why it is technically better, but my eyes have been trained to watch movies at the regular rate. The same goes for 3D, which even when done well is not really a positive. The high definition stuff is good, I guess. I have some appreciation for the movie pushing boundaries, but that can’t be the only justification for its existence. There is enough good otherwise here to make the movie worthwhile. I guess the HFR and 3D stuff did not do anything to make the script terrible.

Gemini Man falls just on the side of being worthwhile. Will Smith and Mary Elizabeth Winstead fun to watch and the action scenes are well executed. The movie, however, is dragged down by some terrible dialogue and convenient plotting. It ends up feeling like something of a missed opportunity.

**1/2

Joker Review

I don’t know that I’ve seen a better made bad movie. It is a movie wearing the darkness and grit of late 70s-early 80s Scorsese as cosplay, without attempting to understand what movies like King of Comedy or Taxi Driver were trying to say. Essentially, why is not a question Joker ever considers. It does things because those things seem dark and provoking, but there is nothing behind them. It is vacant posturing, a movie hoping its darkness will mask its emptiness.

Joker tells the story of Arthur Fleck. Fleck works as a clown, scraping out a life in what appears to the early 80s Gotham City for him and his invalid mother. Fleck suffers from mental illness, taking numerous medications and still being prone to bouts of irrational laughter. He dreams of being a stand up comic, like his idol Murray Franklin. In the opening minutes of the movie, Fleck is beaten by a handful of kids who were harassing him as he worked as a clown. From his already abject starting point things get worse for Fleck. The funding for the social services that helped him pay for his medications gets cut, so he goes off his meds. He gets a gun from a coworker after his beating, but having while working gets him fired from his clown job. After another beating on the subway, Fleck fights back, shooting three men who were accosting him. The lone bright spot in his life is his budding relationship with a single mother living a few apartments down from him and his mother.

As shit keeps being piled on Fleck, he begins losing his hold on rationality. Many people treat his subway killings as a call to action, since the three men were well off money men, working for Wayne Enterprises. Thomas Wayne, exploring a potential run for mayor, calls the poor people reacting that way clowns, inspiring clown make-up at the protests arising all over the city. Things finally come to a head when Fleck gets the chance to meet Murray Franklin.

Joker pulls scenes and shots straight out of movies like Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy, and A Clockwork Orange. It seems desperate to appear to have something to say. But as the movie attempts to unravel Arthur Fleck goes on, it becomes more apparent that there is nothing there. That is despite some all caps ACTING from Joaquin Phoenix in the title role. Fleck starts delusion. The movie maybe wants to show why the character finally broke and became the Joker, but it doesn’t come to a better answer than that he was crazy. The movie can’t seem to help but show its contempt for the people protesting in the streets, but they are contrasted with the selfish and corrupt like Wayne or Franklin. Everyone is venal and self-serving.

The movie was numbing. Its desire to shock, to provoke radiates from every scene. But the movie doesn’t actually have anything provoking to say. It is utterly bleak, but that bleakness isn’t expressing anything. It isn’t a black comedy; there is nothing funny here. This is just two hours of ugly posturing that has nothing to say.

**

Ad Astra Review

Ad Astra joins the ranks of a rash of hard-ish science fiction movies. They present plausibly realistic futures and show people dealing with the harsh realities of the unforgiving nature of space. Movies like The Martian, Gravity, and Interstellar. I don’t know if this is the best of those, but does it really matter when the end result is another thoughtful, interesting space movie to enjoy.

Brad Pitt stars as astronaut Major Roy McBride. The movie introduces him as the coolest man in the US Space Command. His heart rate never cracks 80 bpm, not even when he is falling off a space antenna back to earth after a strange energy surge causes disasters all over the world.

The accident that send McBride plummeting back to earth is what sets up the plot of the movie. That energy surge came from the Lima Project, a research mission to the outer edge of the solar system that was captained by Clifford McBride, Roy’s father and one of the most decorated astronauts ever. They were reported lost years ago, but this surge is the first communication with them in 16 years. So mission command wants to send Roy to Mars to get a message to his father to stop whatever is happening, and to get a precise location for the Lima Project.

So Roy goes to space. The movie presents an interesting dichotomy between the physical journey and the emotional one. Roy’s trip is a Heart of Darkness-esque trek into the unknown, getting further and further from anything he recognizes. There is a lot of pulpy action, with a car chase and zero-g fights. This is presented with austerity and solemnity, but it is really stuff that verges on silly. The combination works, the presentation really sells the wilder stuff happening.

It dovetails nicely with the emotional journey that Roy goes on. At the start, he seems to idolize his father, but also resent his absence. As long as he is on, or near, earth he can maintain his balance. As he travels further from his home, and closer to the father he didn’t really know, the more unbalanced he becomes. This is doubly true as he begins to learn more about his father and The Lima Project. He has to deal with finding out that his father may not be the hero he has been portrayed as as he journeys further and further out into space.

What makes the movie work is Pitt. He is at first somewhat inscrutable; his is cool and cut off from his emotions. He keeps his cool by essentially cutting off his emotions, not actually dealing with his emotional problems. Pitt plays the coldness perfectly, as he does the slow unraveling of Roy’s emotional state as he gets closer to a reunion with his father and as that eventual reunion becomes more conflicted. When the big moment finally happens, you’ve been on this emotional journey with Roy and know where he is.

The movie is a bit too somber and spare at times; it feels like it could be a much more fun movie and still accomplish its central journey. But in my experience that looseness and fun is anathema to James Gray’s filmmaking. But that is a criticism of what this movie is not, not what this movie is. I found it to be one of the most moving film watching experiences I’ve had this year. Ad Astra is a must see.

****1/2

Hustlers Review

Another review I read of Hustlers described it as “Goodfellas in a g-string,” and I cannot think of a better description than that. Hustlers is a crime movie that puts the focus on women. A group of dancers pull a scam on their odious clients, at least until a few of them can overcome the shame and tell the police what happened. It is one of the better movies to come out in the last few months and a good kick off for fall movies.

This is a true crime story of a group of strippers who stole tons of money from their clients. They did this by drugging them and stealing their credit cards. Constance Wu stars as Destiny, who comes under the wing of experienced dancer Ramona, played by Jennifer Lopez. Ramona teaches Destiny how to dance. Eventually, they split up, but after Destiny’s relationship fails and she tries to go back to dancing, they meet back up. The early part of the movie takes place before the financial collapse, the latter half after. The money just doesn’t flow like it did before. So Ramona assembles a crew for a new venture. They go to bars and find men and entice them to go to the strip club. But eventually that well runs dry. So then they hatch a new plan; drugging the men, bringing them to the club and robbing them blind.

Hustlers does a great job of playing with the audience’s sympathies. The first hour is all about getting you to sympathize with its main characters. You see the women’s struggles and their dreams. Those dreams might be somewhat ridiculous–I am not sure about Ramona’s clothing line of denim swimwear–but the movie never asks you to laugh at them. It also goes out of its way to portray the men who are coming into the club as absolute creeps. They are mostly wall street traders just before the stock market collapse. The movie gets you on board with them, and when their efforts turn criminal the movie makes it easy to follow their justifications. Then the movie pushes further and further. The marks become less odious, the women less justified. Then the movie pulls it back once it closes in on the ending.

The movie lives by the performances and relationships of its crew. Lopez is the standout as Ramona, a force of nature in the club, whose drive leads to the plan and whose foibles lead to their inevitable capture. Wu doesn’t appear quite as comfortable as Destiny; at first because that is the character, but later because her attitude is inconsistent. Other characters move in and out, with Keke Palmer and Lili Reinhart rounding out the primary crew of scammers. Palmer in particular steals every scene she is in. The chemistry between Wu and Lopez drives the movie. At first it seems almost romantic, but the real nature of the connection becomes clear later. Destiny was abandoned by her mother at a young age and was raised by her grandmother. Ramona becomes like her surrogate mother. That fits with Ramona’s mother hen tendencies. But Destiny is not the only young dancer she has formed such a relationship with. Ramona’s refusal to cut any of them loose, no matter how untrustworthy they prove to be. Even at the end, Destiny still craves that connection with Ramona.

The other thread, that one that doesn’t quite work, is how this story is being told as a story to a reporter played by Julia Stiles. She is fine, but the storyline only seems to deflate the tension of the main story.

Hustlers is a delight. It is a crime story with a fresh perspective. It is a movie that takes characters that are usually treated as disposable and showing that they are people. It doesn’t quite land every note, but the whole package is a lot of fun.

****

The Goldfinch

The best thing I can say about The Goldfinch is that it made me want to read the book. That sounds like, and is intended to be, damning with faint praise, but I think I liked it more than most people. It doesn’t seem to be entirely deserving of the critical drubbing it has taken. It also not completely undeserving of its reception, either. The Goldfinch feels like a well crafted failure; it has all the ingredients and make up of something great, but the end result is significantly less than the sum of its parts.

The Goldfinch takes place in time periods; in the past with 13-year-old Theo and in the present with adult Theo. The parts with young Theo get a lot more time, and therefore work a whole lot better, even if many of its characters get no development. The inciting incident of the movie is the bombing of a museum that kills, among others, Theo’s mother. During the aftermath, Theo makes off with a painting of a Goldfinch. The movie follows his journey as he lives with the Barbour family, headed by the kind yet distant matriarch played by Nicole Kidman. Eventually he ends up with his father out in the Nevada desert. Along the way, he struggles to process his grief. When overcome, he clutches the Goldfinch, a connection to his mother. As an adult, Theo sells antiques and tries to fit in with the social set he left as a child. There are numerous plots and subplots, eventually building to a conflict around the stolen Goldfinch.

The adult stuff feels like a full movie squashed into less than an hour. There is not enough to get a feel for any of the characters or their relationships. Especially with the time jump, it makes it hard to get a read on the world the characters live in. You see young Theo attempt to process his grief, with him finding some solace living with the Barbours, and less living with his father. He makes some friends that help him cope, if not always in healthy ways. Then it jumps to his time as an adult, and the movie never really establishes who he is. Revelations are fast and frequent, but without knowing what the situation was, it is hard to tell how this new information changes anything. Ansel Elgort tries to do what he can, but adult Theo is a cypher. You see him meet a character for the first time in years. The next thing you know, they are engaged. Then the relationship is on the rocks. The movie never really gives a reason to care.

The movie goes through all the motions, but never gets to the emotions. There is a big scene near the end, when Theo comes into conflict with his mentor and business partner. The movie makes it feel like it should be a big moment, but it doesn’t have the impact because the reasons things matter so much to that character aren’t mentioned until that scene. The movie spends so much time with everything else, it could have spent more time on The Goldfinch. You know, the one from the title.

In the end The Goldfinch feels a bit like the early Harry Potter adaptations. There are a lot they do well, but in the end those movies feel a little like they are marking boxes on an adaptation checklist. All of these scenes need to get in, even if that doesn’t leave the time to actually develop any of the characters or the plot. The Goldfinch gives a look into a story that feels like a modern day Dickens (again, I haven’t read the book) but sapped of most of its humanity. It is a movie about grief, but it shows the effects without really letting the viewer into the minds of the characters to see how it affects them.

**1/2