Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close Review

Extremely pretentious and incredibly meh.

That’s how the Oscar nominated film based on a novel of a similar name by Jonathan Safran Foer left me.

Which, given the subject matter, might mean I’m going straight to hell.

Still, seeing as London’s been gripped by a Siberian cold snap of late, at least I’ll be warm.

Oskar Schell is a supposedly precocious ten year old boy who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome.

What’s for sure is that Oskar’s different, or at least thinks he is.

His doting father, Thomas, seems to agree and takes a special interest in keeping his son mentally stimulated, though this appears to be at the expense of Oskar’s relationship with his mother, Linda.

Still, as long as they both have Thomas around, a picture book domestic life is guaranteed for all.

So when he gets caught up in a meeting at the world trade centre on September 11th, they end up losing more than just a husband and father.

What Oskar really needs is some sort of distraction to take his mind off an awful truth he still can’t bring himself to face.

The kind of distraction his father would have conjured up with a mere shrug of his shoulders.

And so it is that, on the one year anniversary of Thomas’ death, Oskar finds a mysterious key amongst his father’s yet to be removed belongings in his mother’s bedroom; setting Oskar off on a journey across New York as he desperately tries to stay in touch with the fading memory of his dad.

I’d never even heard of Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close until it was nominated for Best Film in last month’s Oscar nominations, so was intrigued to discover whether it was worth the acclaim.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case with films the Academy Awards chooses to commend, there’s very little to merit this film’s nomination.

The name alone was enough to put me off, suggesting that incredibly forced and fake style of written prose that relies on adjective heavy, thesaurus inspired vomiting so many writers employ to make themselves sound clever.

What I always find amazing is how writers like Foer use all these big words without ever once coming close to saying anything at all about the subject they’ve chosen.

And while we’re told to never judge a book by its cover, you can and should.

What else is there to go on?

I’d go so far as to suggest Foer has deliberately and downright cynically placed his characters at the heart of one of the most emotive subjects of the 21st century, in the west at least, so that you feel obliged to like and sympathise with them.

Anything less would make the bearer of such an opinion a bad word.

The bad word in fact.

When surely, it’s the author making millions from intentionally exploiting this act of terrorism that is the bad word individual in question.

But I digress.

There are supposedly poignant scenes and moments studded throughout Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close, yet the poor characterisation throughout meant I didn’t care one jot about what happened to any of the protagonists.

Or their subsequent emotional turmoil.

As if choosing 9/11 as the subject matter for his fictional writing wasn’t enough, Foer completes his brazen act of calculated manipulation by picking a young child as his vessel to communicate his story’s narrative.

So if you don’t like or empathise with Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close, chances are you’ll be labelled un-american, pro-terrorism, anti-democracy as well as someone who hates children thrown in for good measure.

Well, that’s me then.

Oskar Schell, though skilfully portrayed by the precocious Thomas Horn, is an entirely unlikable character.

He’s rude, obnoxious and thoroughly unbelievable in most every thought and deed he pursues, mostly because Schell’s actions and words are not those of a nine year old boy but of a self indulgent thirty something year old writer.

Something you’d think I should relate to.

The parents, though ably acted by Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock respectively, are generic facsimiles of real people who you would never confuse with an actual human being.

Add to this any number of cheap, literary tricks used to try and hook an audience’s attention which are also left unresolved by the end and I just can’t comprehend how anyone could nominate Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close for a best film award in this or any other year.

It’s a sham when it should be Shame.

But in America, I guess some films or subject matters are more equal than others.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

February 2012