What’s it about?
Based on the 2005 novel by Jonathan Safron Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is film adaptation that ladles on the schmaltz when there’s something else much more intriguing and honest in the material. It truly seems as if mainstream cinema can only deal with tragedy through a sentimental lens. This is a shame.
One of the major annoyances of Stephen Daldry’s fourth movie in the director’s chair is presenting Oskar (Thomas Horn) as more overtly special needs. Safron Foer has acknowledged that whilst it might be interesting after the fact he never intended the kid to be such. However, it helps as a conduit and explains Oskar’s bratty, precious behaviour and strange concerns. Hollywood itself has an obsession with mental illness and hands out awards like candy bars when ever a movie moves us with a portrayal. This was recently mocked by Ben Stiller in Tropic Thunder and Ricky Gervais, who noted that to win an Oscar you have to play ‘a mental’ or make a Holocaust drama. Quite.
The problem here is a very poignant sentiment – the fear of forgetting a loved one – is hampered by a silly plot. Memory is an intriguing hook for a movie to work with, especially, from a child’s point of view. The added 9/11 context doesn’t seem necessary beyond an over-reaching notion that through one child’s story we can all heal our wounds. It is a phoney, suspect motive.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is an urban odyssey presented as a missed opportunity, though, contains very moving performances from Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. It is also stunningly shot by Chris Menges. For those with hardened, cynical hearts Daldry’s gooey sentimentality, along with some ridiculous over-acting from Horn, quite encouraged by the director too, derails the overall picture. Shame.
How’s the picture and sound?
Excellent. Chris Menges’ photography looks stunning on Blu-ray and in 2.40:1. This is also a movie where the sound design is very important therefore the mix is also top quality. The design even takes on symbolic qualities as poor Oskar attempts to get out into the world and understand things he’s clearly confused by.
Several featurettes venture into the appeal of the material and how difficult it was to get in production. Also, everybody loves Tom Hanks. But that’s understandable, he’s this generation’s Jimmy Stewart. Another featurette discusses Max von Sydow’s portrayal of The Renter, who befriends Oskar and takes him on his journey of discovery through the nice streets of NYC. The other short extras focus on Thomas Horn’s casting and a look back at how 9/11 is remembered today.
Admirable and moving in places, as with all these kinds of films the gross sentimentality and schmaltz wears down the material making the concept of emotional honesty rather fraudulent. Chris Menges’ photography is a triumph and Hanks, in his handful of scenes is wonderful, so much so, you genuinely miss him when he’s not around. When films hang on child performances to lead the way they can edge into perilous territory, especially, when given a ‘condition’. He’s Rain Boy … but quite why this heightens or makes a child’s sense of the world or lack of it more dramatic, is odd.
Extra Features Rating:
When’s it out?
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is out now on DVD and Triple Play