Movie Review: "EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE"
Published: Sunday, January 22, 2012
Updated: Monday, January 23, 2012 12:01
There's not a single moment of Stephen Daldry's "EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE" that feels like it was conceived in good taste. Look, we've already seen audiences will accept films about 9/11 if they are artistically driven and have nothing but the utmost respect for the victims of that day - "UNITED 93" really does get better and better as the years go on. That movie will stand the test of time. Unfortunately, this one will most certainly not. Exploiting the tragedy to the utmost, Daldry transforms one of the most terrifying days in the history of our country into a twee, sentimental fairy tale more interested in clever plot devices than in honestly tackling the subject at hand. This attempt at soothing the pain survivors feel misses the mark on every level; turning 9/11 into nothing more than another obstacle some precocious young kid needs to overcome in order to complete his coming-of-age. This is kind of what I always assumed "THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED" must have been like.
Daldry, who has always been known for his Oscar baiting ("THE HOURS", "THE READER") goes even farther than you would expect him to in terms of trying to mine significant and tragic events for cheap sentimentality. "LOUD" follows Oskar, who lost his father (Tom Hanks) in one of the Towers and has since seen an increasing strain in his relationship with his mother (Sandra Bullock, speaking of Oscar bait.) Some routine snooping leads him to discover an old possession: a key with the word ‘Black' written on it. Convinced that this is one of his late father's scavenger hunts (at one point he sends Oskar out on a mission; he returns with a stone. Hanks, without irony: "You rock." Yes, it's that type of movie.) Oskar tracks down everyone with the last name Black in New York City. This is, of course, done in a montage to uplifting pop music.
Yes, indeed, this is a 9/11 Scavenger Hunt film. Think about that for a minute. But the worst part isn't even the insulting plot, which devalues one of the scariest days of my life into a plot device; it's the way Daldry wastes Max Von Sydow, who plays Oskar's grandfather (which is obvious but hidden from the audience anyway, probably because Daldry enjoys taking things that could be emotional and instead turning them into narrative devices.) A mute (not that any particular reason is explained, it's just implied that he too has been a victim of senseless tragedy, as Daldry piles on the cheap pathos) he communicates only with notes and the words "YES" and "NO" tattooed on his palms. Even with that crutch (and seriously, hiring Max Von Sydow to play a mute is as dumb as it gets) his facial expressions provide by far the finest acting of the piece.
And in the end, the film doesn't even make sense. Straining to reach a conclusion with Bullock's character, it reveals twists that turn the entire film into an act of implausibility that could never occur in the real world. So it's not just the twee emotions of this film that are divorced from the real world, but even the narrative contains no connecting thread from the reality of 9/11. Stephen Daldry botched this one on every level imaginable; he even cut out an entire performance by James Gandolfini (who is on the poster but not in the film.) Everything about "EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE" is infuriating. Let it forever be known that this is the film that tried to turn one of our nation's greatest tragedies into a genre device.