I read this book a really long time ago. Almost seven years ago. I intended to get Jonathan Safran Foer’s other book, Everything is Illuminated, which was also being made into a movie later that year, but when I flipped through Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I had to get it. It was so much more than text on paper. There were photographs, sketches, red pen copy-edited pages, text with kerning running tighter and tighter into black masses. It was so interesting. Unfortunately, the story wasn’t so much, but all of its visual creativity made up for it.
When this movie came out late last year, I really didn’t care to see it. Of course, it couldn’t retain the same innovation of its print form, but there’s always room for innovation in direction. But I wasn’t counting on it. And I’m glad I didn’t, because for the most part, this movie was pretty flat.
Oskar (Thomas Horn) was really close with his dad (Tom Hanks). In the socially-awkward kid’s eyes, they were best buds. They had inside jokes, they riddled each other with intellectual puzzles and no one else quite got Oskar like his dad did. So, when his dad dies in the September 11 attacks, Oskar is heartbroken, as anyone would be, and withdraws even further from the world. That’s until he finds a key in his dad’s closet one day and feels compelled to find out what it opens. His dad must have left it there for him, he thinks, it’s another puzzle for him to figure out. So he takes to the city alone, at first, to figure it out.
It’s not a terrible story. It’s heartfelt and sweet at times, but it’s way too slow and repetitive. For two hours, you follow this kid on his search that continues to lead nowhere. He does nearly the same thing everyday. Admittedly, it is more of an emotional coming of age story, and that train progresses, but a little more tension or novelty would have been nice.
What pulls this film through is its tremendous acting, particularly on the parts of Max von Sydow as the renter living with Oskar’s grandmother and Sandra Bullock as Oskar’s mom. As I’ve said before, Bullock was snubbed during this year’s awards season. While at least Max von Sydow was nominated for an Oscar, Bullock saw nil. Fuelling this outrage was the fact that she won Best Actress two years ago for a performance that was just whatever. In this movie, she was so moving, so emotionally connecting, so convincing. I was completely blown away. What did they not see?!
If there’s one basis I can recommend this film on, it’s to see Bullock give a truly memorable and award-worthy performance. Otherwise, there’s not much else here. B-
Starring Tom Hanks, Thomas Horn, Max von Sydow and Sandra Bullock. Directed by Stephen Daldry. 129 minutes. PG