Hot off a successful awards season run with his latest stirring period piece, “Brooklyn” director John Crowley has been tapped to direct a big screen version of Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Goldfinch.” It’s a gig that the “Intermission” and “Closed Circuit” filmmaker, certainly no stranger to literary adaptations, has apparently been chasing for quite awhile — so he’s likely passionate about the project — and it’s also one that his talents are perfectly suited for.
When IndieWire spoke to Crowley at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival in support of his “Brooklyn,” the filmmaker summed up his aims when crafting a film pretty succinctly: “I don’t trust earnestness in storytelling, I try to avoid it.” For a director who has often helmed extremely emotion-driven films — from the wonderfully human “Brooklyn” to his wrenching “Boy A” — his studious attempts to avoid earnestness are telling. Crowley wants real, not manufactured, emotion to shine through in his films, and while that’s a fine thing for someone to say, Crowley has delivered on that promise again and again.
Tartt’s wide-sweeping and time-spanning “The Goldfinch” could very easily be overrun by out of control emotion — at its heart, it’s a story about a son trying to reconcile his tragic childhood with a complicated adulthood, all refracted through the violent death of his mother — and Crowley will likely be able to steady all the big feelings of the novel and keep them grounded, even when Tartt’s narrative veers off into the fantastical.
Crowley also excels at giving even supporting characters their moments to shine, as he did with the ladies of the boarding house in “Brooklyn” and with the many inhabitants of the various interweaving tales of “Intermission.” While Tartt’s novel is unquestionably centered on Theo Decker, who is just 13 when he loses his mother during a bombing at a beloved museum, the story follows Theo throughout his maturation, and he meets many extraordinary people along the way. It would be a mistake to overlook them and their unique stories in pursuit of following only Theo.
Another tick in Crowley’s favor? The themes of “The Goldfinch,” which are hung up on the way the past informs and influences the future, often in very unexpected ways. “The Goldfinch” isn’t just about Theo and his dead mom, it’s also about how Theo uncovers the truth about her death, the truth about himself and how it all ties into the tiny painting (yes, of a goldfinch) that he totes around throughout his life, even when its very existence threatens to unmask him.
Part mystery, part drama and entirely enthralling, it’s a big, juicy story that Crowley should be able to use his best skills on. This one is gonna fly.
The project is being developed by Colorforce’s Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson with backing from RatPac Entertainment and Warner Bros. and it will come complete with a script by “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” screenwriter Peter Straughan. Although it’s unclear when the film will begin production, Crowley is next set to direct Cate Blanchett in her Broadway debut early next year, so there’s certainly room for him to get this one moving soon.