Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has controversially been named a nominee for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars. In the USA it has received widespread critical condemnation for being “Extremely Loud & irritatingly quirky” and “Extremely tacky and incredibly unimaginative!” and possessing “indigestible pretension”. Despite this, the trailer which showed off its young star on a journey to discover whether a key his father left behind (after being killed on 9/11) actually fits anything and whether there is a message for him, had promise in it. It promised something schmaltzy, dramatic and a bit of life-affirming melodrama; themes I am admittedly quite partial to. However, I was instead treated to an overlong dribbling drama with no substance whatsoever.
Oskar (Thomas Horn) has been given puzzles and riddles to solve by his father (Tom Hanks) for his entire life so when he finds the key he assumes it is meant to solve something about his father’s death. I wish it had, then the film might actually have some reason to sit through the two hours of “adventure” of Oskar running aimlessly about New York city screaming, shouting and being obnoxious to almost everyone he meets. Although Thomas Horn does an admirable job of conveying the protagonist, Oskar himself is a character I found very difficult to connect with. He possesses no redeeming qualities, instead he just has no sense of humour, a penchant for shouting at strangers and a tenacity which stems only from his selfish desire to come to terms with his father’s death.
The supporting cast are rather good; Max Von Sydow as the old mute who helps Oskar on his way is very understated and dignified (it is an Oscar nomination which seems deserved), Tom Hanks plays the perfect dad (it’s just a pity his son isn’t as nice as he is), Sandra Bullock is back on form as Oskar’s disenfranchised mother and Viola Davis is brilliant as one of the people he meets on his way. Yet there is something hollow about all of their performances, they seem only like small vignettes in what should be a bigger and more important picture, yet the big picture never materialises properly so we are left with very little to cling onto.
I will briefly mention that the inclusion of 9/11 is so ridiculous and tasteless for a number of reasons. Mainly because the link between 9/11 and the story is pretty much non existent. If Oskar’s father had died in a car crash the same story would have played out; yet by including this momentous and tragic moment just to help accentuate the “tragedy” of the story is manipulative and offensive. It doesn’t do any favours for itself.
Some critics (the ones who liked it) have claimed that it is emotional and “has heart.” To me, however, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was neither. The story had no point and although some of the sentiment is nice it is thoroughly undeserved by the main character and almost everyone involved in it. If you want to watch an emotional 9/11 film watch United 93 which is a truely emotional rollercoaster with substance and tension.
I really wanted to like this film. I truly did, but it turns out all those critics were right, it is extremely annoying and incredibly undeserving of its Oscar nomination.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is out in Cinemas this Friday (today).