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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

January 20, 2012

Thomas Schell: You rock.

A good way to start off a review is to spill out my main verdict on the film. After viewing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I could not factor in on what I would score it. On one hand, the film features a wide variety of excellent performances from the adult cast and a few well-placed sentimental moments. Then again, our main character is unbelievable, and is hammered severally by an awful script along with a lack of impressive direction from Stephen Daldry. The film becomes uneven at times, where sentimentality turns into a cliché in the long run, leaving Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in the average zone, which did not serve the film around when the atrocious “twist” came around towards the film’s climax. I guess it is true when they say that January releases never go above average.

Thomas Horn stars as Oskar Schell, a nine-year-old who very recently lost his father, Thomas (Tom Hanks), who died in the World Trade Center on that fateful attack that took place September 11th, 2001. Oskar now is living with his irresponsible mother (Sandra Bullock), and spends most of his time hashing her out or wandering the streets of New York City. Oskar’s father has always been fond of expedition activities given to him, which comes into conflict when Oskar finds a mysterious key in his father’s jacket, only with the word Brown written on the envelope that the key was in. To get the pace going in the film, Oskar assumes that the word Brown represents everyone with that last name in the New York hemisphere, where he goes on a quest to find who has the lock for the key. Along the way, an old man, known as The Renter (Max von Sydow), teams up to help Oskar solve the final expedition given by his father.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close means well; it has the obvious sentimental moments placed to please the audience viewers who bring their tissues to the theater, but it does not introduce anything new to the post-9/11 genre, which only worked in a positive sense with Mike Binder’s Reign Over Me. Much of these sentimental pieces come from the script, written by Eric Roth, who gave us some of the most classic screenplays of all-time including Forrest Gump and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, yet does not seem to hold a solid grasp with his screenplay in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Although the “twist” at the end is a subject that I would like to go into strong detail, it would be a major spoiler, so I’ll spend the next paragraph ranting about the dialogue.

Cheesiness does not even begin to describe how cliché this dialogue is, from every line uttered from Tom Hanks mouth (even with his screen time which is condensed to maybe five minutes total) to some of the most horrible children portrayed in film. There is no honest reason that the audience has any desire to see the misadventures of this stubborn child, who curses out his mother in one scene, exclaiming that he wished she was in the World Trade Center instead of his father. I questioned Oskar having a mild case of Aspergers early on in the film, until Oskar’s narrative said “I once was tested for Aspergers, but they said I was fine.” From then on, I had no reason to want to continue following this so-called “protagonist” and would have been much happier if the entire film focused on Oskar’s mother and her grieving, or even his father’s last few hours of life. 

Stephen Daldry helmed the film as director, and while I cannot say he did an unimpressive job, I just feel that he could have made an even better film had it been cut by at least a half-hour, or even more. I was surprised that this did not have a tagline saying “from executive producer Steven Spielberg”, as a film like this seems to be right up his alley. Heck, I can guarantee that the film would have been more engaging had Spielberg been in the director’s chair. Having seen Dadry’s Billy Elliot at least five times, my expectancy rate was off the charts, and I wish, oh how I wish that I got a stylish direction that worked so well with his other films. Also, supposing he has a say in the marketing techniques, the poster should have Thomas Horn’s name first on the poster, and should definitely not have John Goodman on the poster; not because I have any displeasure viewing his works (I’m a huge fan), it is because his character had less then a minute total of screen time, as did most of the actors/actresses portrayed on the poster. Now, let’s discuss the acting. 

Thomas Horn is capable of doing fantastic things on screen, but his ability is dumbed down from the lack of likability in the script. For the most part, Horn plays an obnoxious, pretentious, and rude child, who does not seem to have much care for anyone other than his deceased father. Having said that, Horn shows some really good acting chops during the really emotion-esque scenes. Perhaps if his character had stronger development, I would have opened up with a more positive reaction to this character, but it is all squandered by the dialogue. Sandra Bullock was my personal favorite performer in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, who was able to stir up the emotion cloud in me, especially during the sequence in which she is on the phone with her husband during his final moments of life.

This does not particularly surprise me though, as Bullock has always given superb performances [as a mother] including The Blind Side (even though I disliked the film, I appreciated her grand performance), so she was impeccably perfect every time she graced the screen. It will not earn her much recognition considering how little screen time she got on screen, but it is one for the ages. Then again, she could gain some award recognition, considering that Philip Seymour Hoffman was recently nominated for a BAFTA for his five-minute screen presence in The Ides of March (which is another average film with a quality cast). Tom Hanks already gave us a weird performance last year in Larry Crowne, why did he have to repeat himself? This time around, Hanks plays Oskar’s father, who is on screen for a very short time, in a totally unbelievable performance. The Help’s Viola Davis has a small role as a woman who aids Oskar in his quest. In the long run, we have a good cast, some do good, some do average, and some excel.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is not a bad movie, it just wastes a grand amount of potential on a storyline devoid of passion.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: 2.5 out of 5

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2012 6:00 pm

    More irritating than touching, healing or any of the positive things one would guess such a story and cast would produce. This was just a totally manipulative film that tries so hard to be emotional that it almost strains itself and its leading “actor”, Thomas Horn who is probably one of the most annoying kids I have seen on-screen in awhile. Good review.

  2. February 12, 2012 2:14 pm

    I’m not sure exactly why but this web site is loading incredibly slow for me. Is anyone else having this problem or is it a problem on my end? I’ll check back later and see if the problem still exists.

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