I read an article today that called the film adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close the “worst reviewed Oscar nominated film in the past decade.” I read the book a few years ago after all of the hype surrounding the book had past. I honestly wasn’t shocked that the reviews that were coming out for the film’s release were mostly negative. I had been waiting to see this movie since I read that they were creating it given I enjoyed the book. There have been film adaptations of my favorite films that have ruined the book forever for me; Where the Wild Things Are in my opinion was one of the worst nightmares to have ever been created for the big screen, and I lost a little respect for Dave Eggers for writing such a horrible adaptation for the big screen of a magical children’s book turning into an ad for Zoloft. The film version of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was very well done, and I find it funny that some critics who hailed Where the Wild Things Are took shots at Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and said it does the book a horrible injustice. When I saw this movie last Friday, I left the theater very impressed and felt that this one of those films where the director gets the idea to make it as close to the book as possible, and I felt that the movie was just as worthy as the book.
In my opinion, a lot of critics didn’t judge this film fairly. The performances in this film by the actors/actresses of the characters in the book were something I had a lot of concerns about, especially the main character Oskar. Oskar had to be played by a child actor who could really pull off his personality quirks, his anxieties, his Aspergers syndrome like mannerisms, and his emotional moments and make them all seem believable. Thomas Horn playing Oskar is truly magical, and I don’t think anyone else could have pulled it off as well as he did. Thomas Horn is a no-name, didn’t seem to have any acting background or resume given this is the only film on his iMDB resume, there is no information out there on him, and the only thing they have on him are a few interviews that he did recently. Tom Hanks as Thomas Schell was a perfect fit, and he played the difficult role of the adventurous, story-telling father remarkably. Plus you really never go wrong when you have a veteran actor like Max von Sydow in your film; my friend who has a background in acting whispered in my ear after seeing the character on screen, “Playing a silent role is a real bitch!” Max von Sydow playing a silent role and getting an Oscar nod is quite an accomplishment.
The story line is probably where the critics aimed most of their criticism. The movie is a very emotional one, and it deals with the subject of a little boy with a brilliant and sensitive mind who is very close to his father having to deal with losing him in one of the worst events in our nation’s history. The subject of 9/11 in the story made me believe that people were going to see it in the trailers, conclude that it’s a film they don’t want to see, or the people who would brave it out in the theater would find the 9/11 inspired plot to be too heavy to handle. The premise of the story is that Oskar must learn how to face his fears, learn to relate and share emotions with other people, and must learn how to move on from his pain. The story has a lot of emotional moments, but I think that emotional moments in a film that have a positive impact on people make for cinema gold, and this is one of those stories. The book had mixed reviews and sold very well, and I have talked to some people who said that the book helped them move on from the pain of 9/11, and others say that they hated the magical realism of the novel.
The critics showed their distaste for certain elements of the film such as the opening credits showing dramatizations and non-graphic images of what appears to be bodies falling from the twin towers, they call the film “exploitive,” and even made it seem that it was too emotional and “plucked at the heartstrings.” The Oscar nominations that this film has received obviously show that there are people who focused on the performances of the cast, obviously found the artistic element in the movie, and it obviously goes to show that even though the Oscars are a joke and a Hollywood pissing contest, the movie has some wonderful qualities that the critics just didn’t seem to get. The book adaptation went through the same thing for a while, and yet it went on to become a bestseller. I’m hoping that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close will keep on having a solid box office performance, will gain some interest with its Oscar nods, and will defy the critics proving that you can’t always trust their opinions.