Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer prize-winning 2013 novel is frequently described as Dickensian in its fine-grained portrayal of upper-crust New York, and the interlopers who threaten to unsettle its hierarchies. Twentysomething antiques dealer Theo Decker (Ansel Elgort, smug and opaque) lost his mother in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; flashbacks reveal that following the accident, the young Theo (Oakes Fegley) was taken in by a wealthy family, the Barbours. But Theo has a secret in his possession: Dutch painter Carel Fabritius’s 1564 study of the titular bird, which has miraculously survived the blast. Theo also obtains a ring, whose inscription leads him to an antiques restorer named Hobie (Jeffrey Wright). When his otherwise absent father (Luke Wilson) reclaims him, he’s forced to move to the Nevada desert, where he befriends Ukrainian firecracker Boris (Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things). Eventually, he returns to New York, where he becomes entangled in a scandal involving the lost painting.
Tartt’s book is almost 800 pages long but it’s a swift read, an ornate tapestry of astonishing coincidences charged with significance. This timid, overlong adaption is the opposite: there is no sense of pace or mystery, but rather an evident need to get through Tartt’s dense plotting in the two-and-a-half-hour run time. From the outset, director John Crowley (Brooklyn) and screenwriter Peter Straughan (who co-wrote the 2017s adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s The Snowman, a botched job if there ever was one) seem intimidated by their source material, rearranging the novel’s linear chronology into a fractured, jumbled timeline.
Probably, the intention was to make explicit the connections between Theo’s past and present, but there’s not enough detail or characterisation for this structural intervention to work. Without those connecting narrative bones, the result is all flab and no flavour.
Source: The Guardian