Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011) (PG-13)

I've resisted writing this review for a while. The feelings that this movie evokes in me are very strong and quite the opposite for many other people.
The first time I saw "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close", I fell in love with the movie. Stephen Daldry's direction and Chris Menges's cinematography made this movie incredibly enigmatic and powerful to me. I was so swept up in the movie that I was shocked to find out that the people I had gone to see it with weren't as enamored with it as I was, nor the general public. There were cries of heartlessness, manipulation, and cliches, but I didn't see them. It was heralded as a mistake that this movie managed to eke out a nomination for Best Picture. It quickly become one of the most hated movies of 2011, crushing all of the movie's box office hopes. After a lot of critical reviews and hearing people scoff at the very mention of the movie's name, I wondered if I had missed something. After a while I decided to give the movie a second viewing, this time with a more critical eye...
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" is based on Jonathan Safran Foer's sensationally wide-published novel of the same name. Having viewed both mediums of story telling I can attest to the virtual impossibility of filming Foer's book. It's just not doable. Other books are said to be difficult to translate to screen (2012's "Life of Pi", for instance), but somehow filmmakers make them work. And "Extremely" is no exception to this.
The book is centered around the musings and prattling of a young, possibly autistic boy, named Oskar. Through the book we get inside his head, as well as the heads of his grandmother and grandfather. These three tell a story that is a loosing of innocence. Oskar cannot survive in a child's world if he is to cope with the horrors of adult life. This book reaches its climax when you realize that Oskar's father was killed in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
The movie holds no such liberties. It's near the beginning of the movie that 9/11 occurs and the rest of the movie is Oskar trying to understand why his dad is not there. Also, the movie is exclusively told through Oskar's eyes.
His dad and he used to play games, extraordinary games. Thomas Schell, Oskar's father, is the best kind of father that a child could ask for. He's never angry and he's never harsh...always understanding.
The bond that forms between Oskar and his father is much stronger than the relationship with his mother, Linda. This makes it even more difficult when he looses his father.
In order to preserve this memory of his father, Oskar sets out to find what a key with the name "Black" written on it, that he found in his father's closet goes to. Oskar is sure that it has something to do with the last "mission" that his father gave to him.
So even on the second time of watching this movie, I was a complete mess. I tried, believe me, I tried to hate the movie but I just couldn't do it. It is so artistic and beautiful.
What other movie could make me weep just by seeing a water drop fall from a faucet or hear a message on an answering machine? None come to mind.
The simplistic nature of the movie is what makes it work. Life can be cruel sometimes; but in the same breath life can be beautiful and mesmerizing. This is what the films tries (and for me, succeeds) to do.
The acting couldn't be better. Thomas Horn as Oskar Schell is a bold and complex newcomer to the film industry—I'm afraid his career might be cut short because of the hatred directed towards the movie but it would be a shame to see that happen. Tom Hanks plays Oskar's father and isn't in the film much but is great in the moments that he is. The adult acting comes down to a powerful force of three: Sandra Bullock, Max von Sydow, and Viola Davis. Each of them have moments of glorious acting, Sandra Bullock in particular. It should be noted that Max von Sydow earned an Oscar nomination for this movie, and his character is mute....that's pretty impressive.
Well I tried it again, and it tore me to pieces again. Throwing all caution to the wind I'm going to just say it—this was the second best film of 2011 and my favorite of all of the nominees for Best Picture. It's only topped by Jodie Foster's sensational film "The Beaver".
I loved this movie, what else can I say?

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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