Thursday, January 5, 2017

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close Movie Review

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011)
Rent Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close on Amazon Video
Written by:  Eric Roth (screenplay), Jonathan Safran Foer (novel)
Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Starring:   Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, John Goodman, Max von Sydow, Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright
Rated: PG-13

My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous movie reviews!

Nine year old Oskar searches New York for the lock that fits the key he found in his father's closet after his father died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

This has a rough start that fails to engender any feelings for the main character. The kid feels like he was written by someone who's never interacted with children. This could have been a fun journey for a kid seeking answers, but Oskar is just too anti-social and unlikable.
While this picks up in the middle, a series of contrivances in the last act undercut the impact this could have had.
It depends.

Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks) devises a ruse to teach his son Oskar (Thomas Horn) about the world and how to interact with people. The ruse is a sixth borough in New York. If Oskar puts the clues together, he can find it. Oskar is socially awkward and he doesn't know how to interact with people. This gives him a purpose to begin overcoming that, unbeknownst to him.

Thomas is killed in the 9-11 bombings, and Oskar discovers a key he thinks his dad left for him as part of the journey. Part of it too is that he's trying to keep his dad's memory alive. As long as the adventure remains, he still has a piece of his dad. This was an adventure he and his father shared, excluding even his mother Linda (Sandra Bullock). You could ask why he didn't ask his mother about the key, the first logical step, but it's clear he doesn't like his mother or just feels misunderstood by her.

The movie expects that having the boy's father killed is enough for us to like him. I get that he sees and experiences the world differently, but throughout this movie he veers from awkward to just cruel. He hides his father's last voicemail messages from his mother. It's clear he liked his dad, but he doesn't like his mom. The movie just goes too far in directing his grief at his mother. Oskar tells his mom that he wishes she had died in the twin tower instead of his dad. His mom agrees wishing the same thing, and I can't blame her. I'd want to rid myself of that kid too.

In his journey Oskar encounters a lot of people and I was baffled at how they all let him do whatever he wants. I assumed part of it was the unintentionally manipulative story he recounts about his dad's death. They should clearly see his social difficulties, but this question is answered towards the end of the movie.

Max von Sydow makes this much better, if only briefly. He's a mute with an air of mystery. "Yes" and "No" is tattooed on each hand as his primary means of communication along with a notepad. This is someone that becomes a friend, as much as someone like Oskar can have a friend. Unfortunately Max von Sydow's role becomes increasingly contrived, ruining the character. At this point the movie devolves into one contrivance after another. It's not even necessary for the story. It's cute just for the sake of it, thinking the audience will marvel at how smart it is. I didn't marvel.

There's a big reveal between Oskar and his mom about how she vicariously lived his journey too, but it serves to make his complaints against her even more petty. She comes across as a borderline neglectful parent. It was one thing when we thought Oskar was hiding the fact that he was going random places and approaching random people, but the fact that she knew about it and despite her worries concerning his safety decided he needed to do this to find answers stretches suspension of belief just a little too far.

Making Oskar just slightly more affable, and avoiding a pretentious ending that inexplicably links everything would have made this movie so much better. It wastes a lot of potential, what it could have been is far removed from what it is.

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