There was a definite uproar within the movie community over Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close‘s nomination for Best Picture this year, seeing as it holds an extremely low 46% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but despite all the negative criticism surrounding it, Academy Award Winner Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliott, The Hours) delivers a solid adaptation of Jonathan Safran-Foer’s beloved novel. The film tells the story of an extremely intelligent and inquisitive boy named Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), whom, following his father’s death in the World Trade Center attack, goes on a hunt throughout New York City to find the meaning behind a mysterious key his father left. Academy Award Winners, Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, star as Oskar’s parents.
The highlight of the film is undoubtedly the its performances. The movie stars newcomer, Thomas Horn, who amazingly outshines both Bullock and Hanks with his eloquence and raw emotion. Based on his dynamic acting, you would think Horn has been acting for years, while in reality, Daldry handpicked him off an episode of Kids’ Week Jeopardy! where he earned $30,000. For a first performance, it’s an amazing feat to carry an entire movie, and Horn did more than just that here. He brings the viewer on emotional roller coaster; at moments you hate him, you pity him, you love him, all while feeling privileged to view this young boy’s coming of age. The story brings forth a unique character in Oskar Schell, and Thomas Horn completely fit the bill.
The film’s other great performance is by Oscar nominee, Max von Syndow, who plays the Boarder. Like the character of Oskar Schell, the Boarder is also extremely unique. von Syndow has no speaking lines throughout the entire movie, only using body language, a notebook and his hands, with the words “yes” and “no” on each palm, to communicate. While the role seems incredibly challenging, von Syndow makes it both believable and effortless, and has earned and Academy Award nomination for his performance.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close also maintains the standard of quality Stephen Daldry has been known for. In his second collaboration with cinematographer, Chris Menges (The Reader), the film does New York City incredible justice, complete with vivid colors and stunning shots. Daldry is also aided by the incredible Alexandre Desplat, (The King’s Speech, Fantastic Mr. Fox) who wrote beautiful piano pieces for the movie. The combination of these elements makes for a delightful and engaging product.
The film’s main flaw is in its screenplay. While the unconventional nature of the story, as well as its misfit cast of characters comes off as charming, the dialogue at time seemed extremely contrived. At times it seemed like the film itself felt that it was special, and though it was a worth the watch, it still does not seem worthy of a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. If screenwriter Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) would have made the script a bit less dependent on Oskar Schell’s narration, and a bit more visually based, the script may have been improved, but unfortunately this seemed to be the film’s biggest flaw.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is emotionally charged and undoubtedly worth a viewing for its look, its performance and its score, but the script may leave some with something to be desired, even while the story seems to lend itself to success.
Review by Jamie Rogers