Thursday, January 19, 2012
“As with anything,” Thomas tells his nine year-old son Oskar, “if you want to believe, you can find reasons to.”
So true, and prophetic. For surely if you want to believe in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a melodramatic tale about a boy searching New York City for the lock that fits a newfound key, you will find reasons. But when looking at it objectively, director Stephen Daldry’s (The Hours) film is long, manipulative and obvious, a saccharine story that plays off 9/11 emotion and far too often borders on the preposterous.
Thomas and Oskar have an interesting relationship that appears to be built entirely on lies. After telling his son New York City has a “sixth borough” and that Central Park was literally dragged into the city by locals years ago, Thomas (Tom Hanks) dies in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. This leaves Oskar (Thomas Horn, making his screen debut) and his mother Linda (Sandra Bullock) understandably distraught.
A year goes by. Still grieving. Oskar searches his father’s closet and finds a key, but doesn’t know what it’s for. Only the word “Black” is written on its envelope. Believing it’s another quest his father wants him to go on, Oskar attempts to track down every single home in New York City where someone named “Black” lives. That’s 216, by Oskar’s count. He’s determined and ambitious, but not to the point where he overcomes his fear of public transit. He admits he may have Aspergers, and it’s hard to think he doesn’t.
That Oskar is unlikeable is a combination of the way he’s written and Horn’s performance. He’s written by Eric Roth (working from the book by Jonathan Safran Foer) as an annoying, inconsiderate brat, but we’re forced to sympathize with him because his daddy died on 9/11 and hey, we’re jerks if we don’t. But this doesn’t change the fact that he’s odious and obnoxious, the type of precocious little snot that only his mother could love. Horn, who deserves a break only because it’s his first performance, never makes Oskar likeable and never had a chance.
It’s dicey at best to tell an emotional story tied so close to 9/11, and it’s not that Daldry isn’t sensitive about it. It’s just hard to see why 9/11 plays in at all. This story easily could’ve been about a boy who loses his father in any tragic incident and goes about his quest. In other words, there’s no good reason to use 9/11 here, and doing so is a cheap gimmick that plays off the still-painful emotions many Americans continue to feel about the most horrible event of their generation.
EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE (2) • Directed by Stephen Daldry • Starring Thomas Horn, Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks • Rated PG-13 • 129 min • At Century Cinemas Del Monte, Maya Cinemas, Northridge Cinemas.