Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a fine film but it does not deserve its Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Here's why.
Three important things to remember about the two Oscar nominations for Stephen Daldry's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.
First, though the tearjerker is never dull, it did not deserve the Best Picture nomination. There were many better films like Clint Eastwood's J Edgar -- which got one of the worst nomination snubs when Leonardo DiCaprio was shut off the acting list -- and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, a thinking person's espionage drama.
Based on Jonathan Safran Foer's best selling novel of the same name, the post 9/11 drama might have read fine on paper but the movie version comes with huge credibility problems.
'That's the nomination you're going to be hearing about all day, at least from critics, many of whom reacted to the film with near-apoplectic disgust and offence,' wrote Huffington Post. But a few major critics and newspapers, including The Boston Globe, liked the film, with the latter giving it three out of four stars
Second, though the names of Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock on the marquee give the impression they are in the lead, they each actually have about 20 minutes in the film. This is not to say that their roles are inconsequential.
Third, the Swedish actor Max vow Sydow, who is nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category, is absolutely brilliant in the film.
Best known for his work as a priest in The Exorcist and the art films of Ingmar Bergman, especially The Seventh Seal, here he plays a stranger and recent immigrant whose secretive life hides a big secret.
Viola Davis (nominated for The Help in the Best Actress category) has just about 10 minutes in Extremely Loud, and yet she outshines her co-artists. She is one powerhouse of an artist.
Extremely Loud expanded across North America on the weekend preceding the nominations and earned a mediocre $11 million in some 2,600 theatres. It is starting on a worldwide campaign just now and should do decent business and enjoy medium success.
The movie centres on 11-year-old Oskar (newcomer Thomas Horn) whose father challenged him continually with problems and puzzles.
When his father (Tom Hanks) dies in the 9/11 catastrophe, Oskar finds it difficult to accept the loss and not only begins to resent his mother (Sandra Bullock) but also tells her during an outburst that he wished she had been dead instead of his father.
Horn brings out well the grief of a child at the loss of his father. He does not realise how much he is hurting his mother and only towards the end of the film do we learn how protective a mother she has been. The boy is close to his grandmother (the veteran Zoe Caldwell) from whom he learns that his paternal grandparents were Holocaust victims.
Then comes the moment that leads to the dramatic core of the film. In a vase in a closet, Oskar accidentally finds an envelope with the word "Black" on it. It contains a key. He is convinced that it must unlock a secret of his father's past, or perhaps it hides a message. He thinks Black is a name, and sets out to visit everyone named Black in New York City. There are at least 472 of them in the phone book.
Perhaps the novel did a better job of explaining things but the movie makes one wonder what made Oskar so sure that the Black he is after is living in New York and not in Cincinnati or Toronto or Seattle or any other city in America or Canada or any part of the world?
As he begins his detection work, he comes to befriend the secretive old man (von Sydow) who has started living in his grandmother's house. We sort of suspect who he is, but wait for a dramatic revelation
Extremely Loud is quite lively, and at times stirring, but it is quite illogical. It is worth seeing for the fine acting. Among the many well acted scenes are the ones with Oskar and Abby Black (Viola Davis) who invites the boy into her home even as her husband (Jeffrey Wright, who has a heartbreaking meeting with Oskar at the end of the film), is walking out on her.
See the film with a lot of paper tissues.