Monday, October 15, 2012

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011) on DVD

I was so hesitant to watch the Oscar-nominated and award-winning Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. I'd heard mixed reviews about it and thought it might be trying too hard to push an agenda or too depressing. What the agenda might be I wasn't certain. That's what comes of only half listening to gossip and not researching yourself.

When the movie finally came through on my netflix, I still didn't watch it right away. But I finally had time and the inclination, and watching it was certainly worth it, if emotionally exhausting.

Based on the novel by Jonathan S. Foer but inspired by the events of September 11, 2001, the movie tells the fictional story of Oskar Schell, a nine-year-old boy who lost his father in the Towers that morning. As the year following his father's death comes to a close, Oskar feels he is losing his dad for good. He hangs onto the vestiges of his father's time on earth, including six heartbreaking answering machine messages his father left once the attack started. When he finds a key among his father's possessions, he believes his dad left him a last scavenger hunt and message, and he embarks on a journey all over New York City to find the lock. Oskar, who suffers from something akin to Asperger's Disorder, discovers a city full of faces and people, some eager to help and some not, but each with his or her own story to tell. For the boy who's afraid of so many things, the journey is sometimes overwhelming, but Thomas Schell told his son to never stop looking, and so he doesn't. Caught in the young boy's circle of pain are his loving but somewhat lost mother, his caring and quirky grandmother, and his grandmother's mysterious renter, an old man without a voice and with past hurts of his own.

Thomas Horn is one of the best child actors I've seen since Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, August Rush). This is complex, heartfelt, amazing acting for a kid, even if he's older than he looks. He was approximately 14 when the movie was released in theaters. He stars in a film with Sandra Bullock (who plays his mother) and Tom Hanks (who plays his dad in flashbacks), but Thomas Horn is the one who shines. His acting partner for much of the movie, Max von Sydow (who plays the Renter), complements him perfectly. Together, they make both the laughter and the tears flow.

And, believe me, this is an emotional roller-coaster ride, weighted more heavily perhaps on the downward side than the up. As a mother myself, watching another mother feel like she's losing her son and must let him go to save him was tough. Sandra Bullock plays those emotions beautifully, and I felt like I was looking into a mirror as I cried along with her.

But the movie is not altogether depressing, and the ending, while sad enough, is also hopeful. I don't mind watching sad stories if they have satisfying endings. Mind you, I didn't say "perfect," and this one's ending isn't. But it met my needs for the story on a foundational level. Sometimes the more "perfect" movie endings don't ring true. I'd rather have the ring of truth and something hopeful at the end. Hope always exists, and that rings truer to me than everything working out beautifully.

The movie is morally sound, rated PG-13 for a bit of language but mostly for disturbing 9/11 images. People who lost loved ones in the Towers should be aware that this might not be for them. On the other hand, it could offer a sort of cathartic healing, too.

I give this movie three stars for superb acting with difficult material. I'm not in love with the story, but I was certainly affected and touched by it.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds interesting. I think I'll check it out sometime.

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