'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' Reviewed
I got to see a free preview of Stephen Daldry’s movie ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s second novel, and I was excited because I had absolutely loved ‘Everything is Illuminated’, a movie adapted after his first novel.
But, before going, I watched the trailer and saw that 9/11 was part of the story, over U2’s ‘Where the streets have no name’, and I cringed.
Actually, the movie is about 9/11 and is not about 9/11, there are snippets from real television news reports, but the national drama acts in the background, rather like another character that has damaged Oskar by killing his father.
Oskar (Thomas Horn) is this 11-year-old New Yorker whose father, Thomas Schell (played by Tom Hanks), a jeweler who wanted to be a scientist, has died during the attack on the World Trade Center. But Oskar is not your ordinary kid of course, he has the mind and the vocabulary of an obsessively driven adult, documents and organizes about everything he does with a precision and a scrupulousness totally out of the ordinary, and carries around a tambourine to reassure him, all this being explainable by the possibility he has Asperger’s syndrome. He has a little bit from Forrest Gump and Rainman, but at the end, he is the sort of kid you prefer to see on a movie screen than encounter in real life: he is so bossy and so hyperactive, you want to take a vacation after a few minutes.
Oskar has developed an extremely close relationship with his father, while being much more distant from his mother Linda (Sandra Bullock), something which even worsens after his father’s death. Oskar has even built a secret shrine to his father in a closet with the answering machine, that still holds the 6 messages left by his father the day he died, messages he has even hidden from his mother.
He calls September 11 ‘the worst day’ and, used to play some treasure hunt-games with his father, he sets himself an impossible mission: when he finds a key in an envelope marked ‘Black’ in his father’s closet, he decides to find the lock it opens, by tracking all the 472 people named Black in NYC. Because it will make him closer to his father, because his father taught him to adopt a ‘nonstop looking’ attitude in life, because he always wants to make sense of everything, and thinks this key will give him the answer, the answer to his father’s death.
The movie is the metaphoric journey through the 5 boroughs of a restless and tireless little boy, who will eventually find a traveling companion (an estranged mute grandfather who has a Yes and a No tattooed on each of his hands) and will meet many people before finding what he was looking for, although not exactly what he was expecting.
All these random encounters with strangers, and Oskar’s relationship with his grandfather (an excellent Max Von Sydow) are the best parts of the movie, because the rest of it is, oh boy, oh boy, a very watery 2-hour movie milking your tears almost at each scene.
There were so many people sniffing and weeping in the theater that the moviemaker should be a little ashamed to have exploited loss and grief so much. It’s way too easy to make people cry at watching other people crying, I don’t think there is a dry-eye scene and Sandra Bullock is crying every time she is on the screen. It’s easy to trigger people’s compassion by showing a little kid missing his father so much he self-harms, or makes this incredible craft book with people falling from tall buildings,… there are tons of this sentimentalist exploitation, and you feel manipulated and used every time you reach for another Kleenex.
And the music? U2’s song only appears in the trailer, the movie has just some background, mostly piano-driven, music, which is just there to reinforce the sadness and the dramatic nature of the scenes and characters.
At one point, one character says to Oskar something like ‘I hope you’ll find what you are looking for’, and I thought another U2 song was about to erupt, but no, it was just my imagination.