Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Movie Review – Directed by Steven Daldry
Written by Eric Roth (screenplay), Jonathan Safran Foer (novel)
Haley Joel Osment. Dakota Fanning. Macaulay Culkin. I’m not a big fan of child actors. They tend to overact. Their big doting eyes emoting what the directors have told them to do. It’s hard to relate with them, or empathize with their conflict. I wish I could tell you Thomas Horn in “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” was any different. The kid has talent, that’s for sure. But for a movie that means to milk emotional responses from the audience, it is hard to find any connection from an eleven year old in pjs.
Horn plays Oskar Schell, a snappy, quirky, and inquisitive pre-puberty preteen who’s oddities verges on elements of Aspergers. Oskar’s father Thomas is a fun loving, inquisitive, jewelry maker, played deftly by Tom Hanks, who dies in the World Trade Center attacks.
About one year after 9/11, Oskar accidentally finds a key in his father’s closet that he becomes convinced will unlock answers that only he was intended to find. Oskar’s life becomes a race against time to try and hold on to the good memories of his father, and the reality of life moving on with his humdrum mother (Sandra Bullock). Through a detective process that’s part Sherlock Holmes, part Pippi Longstocking, Oskar goes on an adventure around the five boroughs questioning New York’s inhabitants for clues.
Despite his choir boy voice, and over-enunciating voice overs, Oskar becomes the annoying character in the piece. Instead of feeling sorry for the kid, we end up empathizing with his mom, who has to try to find a way to connect to her estranged child. The best character comes from Max von Sydow’s tenant, who plays a mute renter of his grandmother’s apartment. The renter’s silent frustration of Oskar’s mission, and agreeing to accompany him on his quest, mimics the viewer’s own plight as we are forced to chaperone this kid on what we already know is a false errand. The movie is not about what the key unlocks, nor about September 11th. Rather, its about how we grieve with a loss, and despite failures and flaws, ultimately learn how we learn to forgive and keep going. At least, that’s what it intends to be. What “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” becomes is a tightly crafted, beautifully filmed, but searingly hollow tearjerker. It makes you feel sorry for the people that are around the kid that we’re supposed to feel sorry for, which is the saddest thing about the film.