Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: Movie Review

Extremely Hysterical & Increasingly Bizarre

[Rating: 2]

Director: Stephen Daldry

Cast: Tom Hanks, Thomas Horn, Sandra Bullock, Zoe Caldwell, Dennis Hearn , Julian Tepper, Caleb Reynolds , John Goodman, Max von Sydow, Stephen Henderson, Lorna Pruce, Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright, Hazelle Goodman

Synopsis: Adapted from the acclaimed bestseller by Jonathan Safran Foer, "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" is a story that unfolds from inside the young mind of Oskar Schell, an inventive eleven year-old New Yorker whose discovery of a key in his deceased father`s belongings sets him off on an urgent search across the city for the lock it will open. A year after his father died in the World Trade Center on what Oskar calls “The Worst Day,“ he is determined to keep his vital connection to the man who playfully cajoled him into confronting his wildest fears. Now, as Oskar crosses the five New York boroughs in quest of the missing lock – encountering an eclectic assortment of people who are each survivors in their own way – he begins to uncover unseen links to the father he misses, to the mother who seems so far away from him and to the whole noisy, dangerous, discombobulating world around him. Three-time Academy Award nominee Stephen Daldry ("Billy Elliot", "The Reader", "The Hours") directed "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" from a screenplay by Academy Award winner Eric Roth ("Forrest Gump", "The Insider"), based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel.

Review: Some titles take you by surprise simply in their extreme aptness, only you wish you had the authority to rechristen them in the context of the emotions that the film stirred within you as you tried hard to watch it. So yes, it was meant to be a very hard hitting film but instead it turned out to be ‘Extremely Hysterical & Increasingly Bizarre’.
The Twin Tower attacks were traumatizing but still trauma cannot be this obnoxiously dealt with. Especially in the case of a child who is gifted with the curiosity  of a scientist and a humane understanding of trauma. Still, when it comes to dealing with the loss of his own father, he is way too harsh on himself and his grieving mother. The mayhem he constantly creates at home is completely at odds with the way he relentlessly keeps touching the lives of many he encounters beyond his home. That perhaps is the biggest failing of this film.

This film is an adaptation from Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel and directed by Oscar nominated Stephen Daldry known for impactful films like Billy Elliot, The Hours and The Reader. So you still have more reasons to be disappointed and highly distracted throughout the film, trying hard to relate to the melodrama in the name of post trauma heart ache. The young lad seems too bratty rather than truly broken, gentle but with too many devilish streaks, like he was struggling between a halo and a horn.  His over smartness time and again overshadows the message of the film.

Oscar Schell (Thomas Horn) tragically loses his father (Tom Hanks) in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. Oskar and his father were always curious about the existence and location of New York City’s long-lost 6th borough. Since he lost his dad he resolutely refuses to express himself to his devastated mother ( Sandra Bullock). A cumbersome hole in his bedroom is also for him a makeshift memorial where he torments himself by recalling his dads last messages to him on the answering machine, from the World Trade Centre. Every single day he is seen replaying those messages, bruising his body to cope with the guilt of not reaching out to speak to his Dad one last time.

One day we see him stumbling on a blue vase containing a gold key in his father’s closet, making him wonder if this was a secret his father wanted him to unfold. To discover the lock that this key was meant for becomes his quest. The only clue is a surname called Black to the mysterious key. Making Oscar indulge in white lies with his mum and fake bank holidays to the school guard and visit every person in New York whose name ends with Black. On his journey he meets all kinds of people, God loving and seriously gay, making the script draggy and touching at certain points except perhaps the instance in which he meets a mysterious man (Von Sydow) who lives with his grandmother on rent.  And this man communicates with him only through a notepad, as he is too traumatized to speak? Like Oscar needs any more trauma than this film needs justification. But in the film, it is this 82-year old man who leaves a mark without even saying much, seeming like a Zen monk, content despite all the distortions. He thankfully will not rant, no matter what he has suffered. Am sure Deepak Chopra would be highly impressed. To know more of how this larger than life quest ended, you will have to watch the film. And get still more shocked at knowing how so much time could have been saved if only Oscar knew which Black to have been relentlessly pursuing in the course of his journey. To give you a funny clue, it’s like shoe shopping at the main street and buying the shoe you first saw at the first store. Now saying anything more would simply be dramatically incorrect.

On a final note, it may leave you with a headache rather than a heartache. It leaves you lukewarm. And extremely lost with what to make out of it.  Wish Tom Hanks was free to loiter more on screen and Sandra Bullock was a little less helpless and more adamant as a mom. And yes, the kid is refreshingly bratty because he is highly intelligent, but that still did not help in feeling moved towards what life puts him through. If you love extremities and pendulum inspired emotional upheavals, bet you will love it, just don’t mind the extremes. 

Verdict: On a final note, it may leave you with a headache rather than a heartache.


Pashmina Narang

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