I’m sure I’m not the first one who has made that pun. And the movie is so bad, I’m sure I won’t be the last
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is Oscar-bait. Focused on one boy’s emotional journey following 9/11, directed by Stephen Daldry who directed The Hours, starring Oscar-winners Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, as well as respected actors like Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright, Max von Sydow, this movie was made to win awards. But based on the movie’s IMdB page, that didn’t really pan out for them to well.
Although I had not read the book by Jonathan Safran Foer, when I saw this trailer, I thought “Well…ok then. I’ll see it.”
And I was all set to go see it as soon as it hit theaters.
Until the reviews started.
Currently on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s at 47%. Here are some of the highlights from those reviews:
– Tom Long of the Detroit News says “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” is the kind of movie you want to punch in the nose.
– Antonia Quirke from the Financial Times said “So slow and self-important that its Academy Award Best Picture nomination only proves that the shortlist is too long.”
– Peter Bradshaw from the Gaurdian (UK) succinctly described it as [An] intensely self-conscious movie that contrives to make the human cost and human meaning of 9/11 distant and faint.
But I think most apt is the review from Brett Michel in the Boston Phoenix: Too soon? For Stephen Daldry’s 9/11 drama, the right time is “never.”
I was in NY for 9/11 and I was damned lucky. I didn’t know anyone directly who died. I wasn’t downtown and all my friends who were, got out unscathed, physically. But the emotional impact was there. Someone had hurt my city. This was the city of my birth and where so many of the touchpoints in my life as an adult had occurred. No one OWNS 9/11, but so many of us carry that day inside in our many ways…
And everyone has been trying to figure out how to express this heavy thing we carry with us. Some people wrote books, some people wrote music, some people sculpted or painted. And some took that day and boiled it down to its most manipulative aspects and made this film.
The plot basics: a boy who is most likely on the Autism spectrum loses his father on 9/11 or as he calls it “the worst day”. A year later he finds a key in an envelope with just the word “Black” written on it and assumes it’s a link to a message from his father. He sets out to discover what the key opens to find the message, crisscrosses the five boroughs to talk to every single “Black” in the phone-book to do so.
Nice story, right? Touching. But somehow the movie muddles it. I felt nothing when the father, played by Tom Hanks, died. I felt nothing when the kid listens to the voicemail his father left as he died in one of the Towers. And every coincidence that bring the boy closer to the answer of the key, was just that, a contrived coincidence. Pushing aside my disbelief that ANY parent would let their child wander the streets of NY by themselves or that said child could actually WALK from Manhattan to Brooklyn or that the entire interaction with the mysterious character played by Max von Sydow called The Renter would play out the way it did (which I guessed literally as soon as his character was mentioned) … frequently, everything was just too much and just unbelievable in the end.
I am highly susceptible to the emotional effects of music. No shame in admitting, I cry at the end of How to Train Your Dragon every. single. time. That music just gets to me. Hell, I’ve cried at Kleenex commercials on occasions. This movie? Nothing. It’s soundtrack?Nothing. I sat for the entire running time, 115 minutes, just waiting for that hitch in my breathing, waiting for the moment that the cumulative gestalt of the movie would push me to where I could ignore all the bs and the obvious manipulation and let myself be swept up in the tragedy and be uplifted. That never happened. From the moment the movie opened on the image of a man falling, an image that was reused throughout the film whenever it needed a cheap emotional punch, I was just disconnected from it all.
This movie did speak to some people, to be sure. The guy sitting in front of me in the theater spent most of the movie sniffling, and not from a coke habit. A friend of mine is calling it the best film of the year. At least some members of the Academy of Arts and Sciences voted this as their favorite film of the year. I just don’t see it.
Anthony Bourdain used the word “twee” to describe the movie during an interview with the NY Times and announced via Twitter that he had to stop watching less than halfway through. It’s not just twee, it’s insulting. I don’t walk out of movies, but I came close with this one.