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Movie Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

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Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was directed by Stephen Daldry, known for The Reader, Billy Elliot, and The Hours. It has been advertised as a stunning, avant garde movie centering on how the 9-11 tragedy affects one family. It centers around Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), a nine-year-old boy who is hell bent on discovering a remnant of his father’s past. His father is Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks), a jeweler, who dies in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The last remnant, as it were, he has left behind for his son is a cryptic key Oskar finds in a vase in the closet after his father is dead. He is from then on driven and fixated on finding the lock that the key opens. This generates a plot of pseudo adventures meeting all sorts of people and devising all sorts of elaborate schemes along the way. What about the twin towers? That was my burning question most of the movie. Make no mistake: this film is not so much about 911. Instead it is more akin to a public service announcement for Asperger’s syndrome, or some garden variety diagnosis of a tortured genius nine year old.

Oskar Schell apparently has license to scream horrible words at his mother, (Sandra Bullock) because of his unique disorder. He rolls on the floor, bangs his hands against furniture, and shows utter frustration when his “genius” ideas are thwarted. I could get into the unrealistic amounts of time he is alone to carry out his adventures but I won’t. I also won’t get into the ridiculous cussing exchanges (equally implausible) he has with the security guard (John Goodman) of his building as he comes and goes. I don’t think this movie is meant to be realistic; it’s up to something else. I am not sure I know what it is. It is definitely hard to follow. Fortunately, we can find some compassion for the boy and that held my interest for some of the film.

Of course, anyone would have sympathy for Oskar. He lost his father who was seemingly his best friend to the tragedy we now refer to as 9-11. Still, it doesn’t excuse his disdain for his mother and the strange fixations he leaps headlong into to find the origin of the key. Along the way, he meets a nice, quiet (mute in fact), man who rents a room from his grandmother. He is aptly called “The Renter” (Max von Sydow). He accompanies Oskar on his key expedition, which is very difficult because the old man cannot speak. In a way, the renter is best suited to Oskar: he never talks back. The renter is Oskar’s long lost mute grandfather and ironically becomes the only voice of reason. In my opinion, Max von Sydow gives the most compelling performance in the movie. I must add also that there isn’t much competition.

Oskar is very taken with his own “clever” ideas and likes to tell people about them with every opportunity. His lines are annoying and they delivered by an equally unsettling voice. There isn’t much more to the story than Oskar finding the lock for the key. The mystery’s end is not exciting and he doesn’t seem to advance much in is grieving process for his dad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think that this movie failed to impress me because it was not about what it advertised. A movie can get away with that when it is such a powerful film you forget you were cheated by the ads. In my opinion, this movie used 9-11 as a “bait-and-switch theme to get people into the theater. There is only minimal reminiscing about the tragedy. On the other hand, the movie centers on Oskar, who is not an emotionally well young man. We therefore have nothing to relate with. The boy’s actions are annoying and obtuse; he treats his mother atrociously. I can’t relate with how a kid like that sees his mother and the world. We want to relate with Oskar but the feelings never come.

About Damien Riley

  • Steve Howe

    We must have been at different movies with the same title. I found this to be a powerful and emotional movie, and the best part of it all was how well the audience, including the three others attending with me, could relate to the characters. I was incredibly moved by the performance of Thomas Horn and this movie is definitely worthy of his “Best Picture” nomination.

  • http://www.damienriley.com/category/reviews/ Damien Riley

    The librarian at the school I work at loved this film. I went on her recommendation. It just didn’t live up to it for me. I imagine some will share my opinions of it and others won’t. I’m glad you enjoyed the film though. Have you seen Hugo yet? I reviewed that one on Blogcritics. What an amazing film that was. I imagine it will be a runner for a few Oscars. Thanks for chiming in Steve!

  • Tiffany

    My son has Aspergers and I think everyone from parents, to kids to schools should be aware of this disease. There is so many people in the dark on this subject and don’t realize how their actions and lack of education on Aspergers effects the person or child with this..it is an everyday challenge to keep him on a positive path, bc he don’t understand why people pick on him etc… He is very smart just slow on understanding life… Who cares if a movie or book is lame that’s usually the ones who bully people or think they are better than everyone.. Your not so look at the educational part of it not the character part .. Read between the lines and give someone other than yourself a chance to live.

  • http://www.damienriley.com/category/reviews/ Damien Riley

    The kid n the mvie says the aptitude/diagnostic tests the school took were “inconclusive” as to whether he even has Aspergers. If I worded my review as anti-Aspbergers that was definitely NOT intentional. Me having a different opinion than you of a blockbuster movie making millions of dollars for Hollywood stars and cast does NOT mean I am anti Aspergers. I have been an elementary school teacher since 1997 (that’s 13 years at time of writing). The character shuld not be considered a poster boy for any disorder. I haven’t read the book but know the real life man is very intelligent. This is a movie review … MOVIE review not a psych eval. Thank you for your opinion and I will make the choce at your request to “let someone live other than myself.” (whatever that means) Now please calm down. *rolls eyes* Anybody agree with me on this film being “not so good?”

  • http://www.damienriley.com/category/reviews/ Damien Riley

    & I apologize for the few typos, I am a search and plunk typist even after all these years and I forgot to proof before posting. Thanks. Embarrassing.

  • Sarah

    Tiffany I would think if your son has Aspergers you would understand where the author of this post is coming from criticizing the movie for using the disorder to sell tickets as opposed to actually representing it. In fact the movie said Oskar once tested for the disorder but didn’t actually even get diagnosed with it. Its so Hollywood to market this movie with two major movie stars, 9-11, and the mention of one of the most over diagnosed disorders of this decade to simply sell tickets. Unfortunately the result will be a lot of viewer who love it for these reasons and who are thereby unable to see the ridiculous plot of a father who encourages his son to talk to dangerous strangers and a mom who also allows her son to visit and enter into the homes of other unknown dangers (after apparently pre-visiting these homes). Its asinine really.

  • Robert

    They call them CRITICS for a reason. They have to find something wrong with anything! The author seems to suffer from this like the kid suffers from having to find a reason for anything and everything that happens!

  • Robert

    The kid in this film did a WONDERFUL job. My field of work has placed me among kids who suffer from Asperger’s and he had amazing accurate mood swings. The need to find reason and the fear of finding that reason is exactly what I see day in and day out! The kid should have gotten nominated for something! I see many didnt like it but I see the few that did ALL have a related bond. That related bond is that they have seen Asperger’s up close and personal! Im sorry that more people arent educated enough on the disorder to realize just how amazing of a job the kid really did!

  • Robert

    Im sure you being a teacher arent allowed or equipped to handle these types of “unique disorders”. You really dont seem to grasp WHY they call it a disorder. He has no conscience of empathy. The failure of a compliment he tries to pay the first woman he visits is prime example. He said it like he was reading it out of a book, without emotion. The digging into his side was him trying to make himself cry! It wasnt something he could simply do! He knew he was “supposed” to be sad but tears are not an easy emotion displayed! The lack of knowledge you have on this subject is AMAZING! Im sorry to come here and voice this of all places and youre not alone in that group, in fact Im in the vast minority! Im sorry about the comment and if its taken down I totally understand but I WILL be GRATEFUL that you at least read it! Good movie by the way and EXCELLENT job by that kid!

  • Robert

    “Oskar Schell apparently has license to scream horrible words at his mother, (Sandra Bullock) because of his unique disorder”

    This statement right here turns your “movie review” personal somewhat! All I can say is THANK GOD you are not the parent of a child with this “unique” disorder! I have a feeling you would attempt to solve this situation with a beating or a time out. You would get NO WHERE with either method!

  • http://www.damienriley.com/category/reviews/ Damien Riley

    If I had a child in my class with aspergers I would treat her/him with respect and care as was appropriate. If I had a child with Aspergers I certainly would not use a “beating or time out” as you have suggested I would.

    Once again, this movie has poor character development and it is NEVER established that he has Aspergers. In fact, public school testing is not what would be the basis to medically diagnose such a disorder. The school can only give certain tests and then a doctor prescribes a disorder. Once the child is diagnose, teachers and school psychologists hold a meeting to address the disorder and plan interventions and strategies to give the child the least restrictive environment and equal access to the core curriculum.

    Ok, now back to my critic hat: I write movie reviews because I like sharing my opinion. Sometimes I share more data and facts that support my opinion than others. I think you are correct I put a lot of my own opinion in this one but remember, not many people know about Aspergers and the director/writers did not develop the things people are sharing in these comments like why he scratched and why he went off on his own without parent supervision.

    Hey, I’m willing to admit I could have reviewed this with a little more data and less emotion. Does that help? Let’s meet in the middle and agree that Aspergers is not what this movie is about. It cashes in on the 911 interests of movie goers and does a poor job of explaining why the boy does the things he does. Thanks and I apologize if any offense came across toward the disorder called Aspergers.

  • Jessica

    I think your review was spot on. There just wasn’t anything to grasp onto with this movie. It was oddly vague and lacked real depth. Wheither the boy had aspergers or not he was obnoxious, mean and an all around unlike able character. I was so excited to see this movie. Giant let down.

  • Jessica

    Sorry for all the errors. Typing on my phone isn’t easy.

  • sam

    just an explanation for the plethora of time allotted for his adventures around New York. His mother was aware of where he was going because Ms. Black(the first woman he visited) called her and told the mom Oskar’s plan. Read the book