{Film Review} Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)

“Oskar (Thomas Horn) is convinced that his father (Tom Hanks), who died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, has left a final message for him hidden somewhere in the city. Feeling disconnected from his grieving mother (Sandra Bullock) and driven by a relentlessly active mind that refuses to believe in things that can’t be observed, Oskar begins searching New York City for the lock that fits a mysterious key he found in his father’s closet. His journey through the five boroughs takes him beyond his own loss to a greater understanding of the observable world around him. — (C) Warner Bros”

When I settled into my seat in the cinema last night with three of my friends, waiting for the movie to begin, I honestly did not know what to expect. I have heard of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as a book, and I knew all about the movie production, but I never read it and I know as much as the next person about the plot. I only knew that Rotten Tomatoes scored it as rotten, but I defiantly decided to just forget everything and just enjoy the film. 

It didn’t take long for me (or for anyone else, at that matter) to realize that Oskar, the main protagonist, is, well, different. Not only in the sense of the possibility of his having Asperger’s Syndrome (it wasn’t really clarified in the film), but apparently he’s a kid who has a temper, getting away with cursing, shouting at elders, and throwing tantrums. A lot of people found issue with that, but I don’t mind. I have a soft spot for characters who are different from normal people, since I have first-hand experience with people like them every day (my brother is autistic, and my one of my college organizations, SPEED, deals with special children). I think Thomas Horn did a good job of embodying the moody Oskar, with his quirks and mannerisms and all those really annoying things that should annoy me but doesn’t.

Despite Tom Hanks’s name being placed prominently on the poster, I think he actually had more screen time in his dying moments than any scene that could have developed his character. He’s probably just there because, well, he’s Tom Hanks. It’s a shame because his character seemed like a very interesting dad. I’m not sure if it was this way in the book, but book-to-movie adaptations are known to change several things in their productions anyway, so why not? Sandra Bullock did an incredible job as the suffering surviving parent, and her character’s scenes with Oskar were among the most touching parts of the film. Max Von Sydow was brilliant in his portrayal of the mute old man who eventually became Oskar’s companion in his search within the city. The twist regarding his character was not unexpected, though. 

There are some things I find skeptical in the plot. (Beware: SPOILERS AHEAD! Scroll down until you see another line in bold.

Oskar began his search of that single Black out of 472 Blacks in the city by knocking on Abby Black’s door. Abby Black (Viola Davis), it later turns out, is the person Oskar has been looking for all along. Really, now, movie? And the poor kid had to go through hundreds of other people before he found out. And what are the odds of that happening anyway? Okay, I’m not enraged at this, but it’s something I find really weird; it totally triggers some eye-rolling here. Anyhoo, SPOILER OVER. I’m okay.

From the beginning of the film, I can’t help but notice (as I always do) the score. I really liked it. It adds to the whole Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close meaning, in a literal sense. I didn’t really listen for it, but if I’m not mistaken, there’s music all throughout the film, with the meager silences covered by Oskar’s constantly jangling tambourine. If anything, this was the aspect I loved the most. (Edit: I just found out that it was Alexandre Desplat who composed the score. He was also the composer of the score of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by the way. I am not surprised why I love it now.)

I was stumbling as usual around the Internet and found this chart from The Whole Garden Will Bow and I am marveling at how accurate it was. 

I can see where people are getting at with the film getting emotionally manipulative. Believe me, I could practically feel the movie screen’s extended tendrils alighting on my face and dragging the tears down (it did not succeed, no matter how much I wanted to let it), and I can understand how people can feel enraged by that, but I don’t see much fault in it. I was totally ignorant of the events that occurred during the 9/11 incident when it happened, as I was only six years old then, and I could never imagine the full extent of how terrible it must have been to everyone who witnessed it, but somehow watching this movie made me understand a bit more. This movie is about moving on, a concept hard enough to grasp for people having to accept it, and for a kid with Asperger’s (still not sure if that what he has), it’s something that takes longer to understand. And I really can’t imagine how hard it must be for Oskar’s mother, either. I have experienced special children having problems and the emotional turmoil it causes their family (my brother is autistic, and it breaks my heart to see my mother crying over him when he has tantrums that won’t subside for days) and I know other people with this problem as well, and seeing it play out in the movie felt so real and raw and honest to me. So, weighing my earlier complaints against everything this movie made me feel, I’m more inclined to like this movie. 

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is not without flaws, but the solid acting and the score make up for it. I am not surprised that it is an Oscar nominee. There is much to be desired in the script, so many questions I want answered, and I suppose that’s the crippling aspect for me. Otherwise, I like this film. Definitely not perfect, but it is a movie that is beautiful in its portrayal of coping with one’s loss. I may be one of the minority who liked it, but give it a try and see if you do, too.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 3/5
Runtime: 129 mins.
Released: 2012
Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Written by: Eric Roth (screenplay), Jonathan Safran Foer (novel)
Executive Producers: Benjamin Melniker, Sam Register, Bruce W. Timm, Michael E. Uslan
Producer: Lauren Montgomery
Co-Producer: Alan Burnett
Music: Alexandre Desplat
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Spoken Language: English
Country of origin: United States of America
Genre: Animation, Action
Oskar Schell – Thomas Horn
Linda Schell – Sandra Bullock
Thomas Schell – Tom Hanks
The Renter – Max von Sydow
Abby Black – Viola Davis
Oskar’s Grandmother – Zoe Caldwell
Stan the Doorman – John Goodman

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