Exasperating, poignant, and touching, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, is very much like the plucky 9-year-old at the center of its story. The boy, Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), struggles in the wake of his father’s September 11th death. Schell, who suffers from a socially inhibiting Asperger’s-like syndrome, idolized his patient father who conjured up games and puzzles for them to enjoy, so when he discovers a mysterious key in his father’s closet he sets out to discover its’ meaning. Director Stephen Daldry directs this adaptation of the ambitious Jonathan Safran Foer novel about love, family, and mourning in post 9-11 New York City, starring an endearing Tom Hanks and stoic Sandra Bullock.
Oskar is a complex character and his thoughts are difficult to follow. Perhaps trying to be too faithful to the book, Eric Roth’s screenplay is slow and muddled. The movie begins with a narration, but the voiceover soon disappears. Disjointed as it moves back and forth in time with flashbacks, the movie doesn’t come alive until Max von Sydow appears as a mute old man and anchors the film for a time. The performances are impressive and moving, most especially Max von Sydow, Jeffrey Wright, and an extraordinary debut by Horn. Oskar’s journey of discovery brings him in contact with hundreds of people and their stories teach him about life: Everyone experiences loss and their own healing journeys, surviving it requires forgiveness, nurturing, and keeping spirits alive. The film is equal parts heft and inspiration, but could have benefited from more moments of whimsy.
REEL FASHION: Costumes designs are by the prolific Ann Roth (Oscar winner for The English Patient), who dresses stars like Barbra Streisand, Meryl Streep, Jane Fonda, Gwyneth Paltrow, Nicole Kidman, and Angelina Jolie in a career spanning nearly 50 years.