Thursday, August 30, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Directed by Stephen Daldry.

2011. Rated PG-13, 129 minutes.

Thomas Horn
Zoe Caldwell

Oskar (Horn) is a happy little boy who does everything with his father Thomas (Hanks). Much of their time together is spent on fanciful excursions like looking for New York’s “lost sixth borough.” Dad uses these to bolster the boy’s confidence and develop his social skills since it seems the boy suffers from some form of autism (the movie half-heartedly kinda sorta rules out Asperger’s Syndrome). The two get along swimmingly. However, bliss is not eternal and Thomas dies during the tragic events of 9/11. A year later, he finds a key his father had hidden in a vase. Oskar then embarks on his own expedition all over the Big Apple to find out what it unlocks.

Though we hardly see her, Oskar does have a mother. She’s played by an appropriately worn looking Sandra Bullock. Nearly every word she says is laced with a defeatist attitude. Neither she nor her son are taking her husband’s death well. Basically, she lies in bed while he traverses the city trying to dig up remnants of his dad. Eventually he gets some company on his daily treks from the old guy known only as The Renter (von Sydow). The Renter doesn’t talk but rents a room from Oskar’s grandmother who lives across the street.

There are some interesting things going on in Extremely Loud. Oskar encounters some interesting people on his travels. The relationship between he and the old man is endearing. All thanks for this is due to the wonderful Max von Sydow. He expresses so much without ever uttering a sound. His is a remarkable piece of work. A couple other performances also shine in the brief time they’re allotted. I’ll not divulge any further details as this may give too large a hint about the outcome.

As we inch nearer that outcome things fall apart. The movie becomes too transparent in its attempts to manipulate. It tries to play on our inherent sympathy for children and soon has Oskar bursting into tears every so often in hopes that we’ll do the same. Some of us will. For the rest of us, however, Oskar’s proven to be kind of a jerk. We’ve humored him out of sympathy for his quest, but we’re not ready to sob with him. To combat this, we’re next hit with a seriously contrived and overly gooey conclusion that somehow excuses mom’s highly questionable parenting tactics. It’s clearly meant to have us bawling at the notion of sweetness and enveloped by the warmth of closure. Instead, I merely felt violated as it kept trying to touch my sensitive areas without permission.

MY SCORE: 5/10

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