The day that the Academy Award nominations came out, this was the film that was on the lips of most people. The reason why was because it was nominated for Best Picture of the Year and not many people had seen it and those that did were very on the fence about how they felt. Seems like it should be almost a sure shot at Best Picture quality - stars Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, is about 9/11, based on an acclaimed book and had a top tier director attached. But those haters that warned about the mediocre finished product were onto to something.
I can totally understand why people enjoyed the book by Jonathan Safran Foer. It's a sweet tale about how an autistic boy processes his father dying in September 11 and trys to make sense of it. Along the way he learns about different people and how they handled September 11, death, love and forgiveness. But as a film it didn't work and I'm not sure it was any one person's fault.
Director Stephen Daldry is no stranger to acclaimed films. He's done The Hours, The Reader and Billy Elliot; all of which were considered great movies and won awards. He brings a unique approach to everything that is like a watered down version of an Oliver Stone film that moves along at a slower pace so his target audience of crusty, old, art house filmlovers can keep up without getting overwelmed. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is no exception and it's visually a feast in some parts. But it was almost too choppy to come together as a story without looking pretentious and silly.
One thing this film did right was introduce us to Thomas Horn, who plays the main character of Oskar. Believe it or not, this was Horn's first film ever with his only other credit being Jeopardy! when he won on Kids' Week. Although Horn is young and a novice, he does a great job of portraying a high functioning autistic child who lives in New York City and is used to visual chaos but still needs to compartmentalize it in his head to make sense. Because Oskar is designed to be flawed as well as lovable, it makes the character very difficult to enjoy. There are times when you want to wrap your arms around him with a reassuring hug, scream at him to stop being so annoying and laugh at his quirks and traits. He carrys the film on his back and it's not his fault that it doesn't work because he did a great job considering all that...and that it was his first shot.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is an average movie when you smooth the whole thing out to look at it. There are scenes that made me cry a bit but I'm not sure if it's because the plot or acting is so superb or because 9/11 will always make me cry. There are also scenes that are really awful and almost feel like you're watching a dress rehersal of actors running their lines since the delivery seems so hollow that it couldn't possibly have been a final take. I wanted to see this, not because I thought it looked good, but because it was nominated. I suspect that that is the only reason why a lot of people will see it. I can tell you now that it won't win and I agree that it shouldn't have been nominated, so save your money and pass on this one unless you make it your mission to see all the Best Picture nominees each year. If it is, you're my kinda movie fan but you'll still feel "eh" about this.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: C