My Take on: “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”

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FYI: Today I won’t publish a normal “little things” post, instead I felt like writing a slightly longer opinion piece about what I think of the movie “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”

*SPOILER ALERT: If you have not seen the movie and plan to do so, you should be warned this piece contains various spoilers.

Sortta Confusing and Kindda Touching

I had been wanting to watch “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” since I saw the trailer in theaters, and even more so when I found out it had been nominated for Best Movie for this year’s Academy Awards. Sadly, life got in the way and I wasn’t able to get around to watching this film until this weekend, when I had some time to myself, some extra spending money and I decided to rent it.

I have to say most 0f my expectations were met. I expected to cry at least once by the end of the movie: check. I expected to like Sandra Bullock’s performance: check. I expected to miss Tom Hanks’ character for the rest of the movie: check. I expected to feel uplifted by the end of the movie: check.

I really liked Sandra Bullock’s performance. For the first three-quarters of the movie I noticed the absence of her character and I was disappointed; Sandra, as Linda Shell, was letting her son run around all over New York City, doing God-knows-what with God-knows-who. I thought this to be a mistake from the writer and/or director and it was honestly distracting me from the actual movie. But all was redeemed by the end, when Sandra proves to be not only slightly smarter than her genius son but also a good, loving mother who, in spite of her grief, finds a way to help her son deal with his.

Tom Hanks was good at playing the awesome dad most kids wish for. But I think the credit goes to the writer, Eric Roth, for making such a likable character in the scarce screen time he had.

What I did not expect was meeting such wonderful characters as The Renter and Abby Black. By the time Abby Black was introduced I was a little disappointment with the pace of the movie and no quite sure I felt the required identification with the main character: Oskar. But the scene with Abby Black was both touching, funny and it made me like Oskar better because I saw a more compassionate side of him I hadn’t seen until that point.

The character of The Renter, to me, was second best to Linda Schell (Sandra Bullock). Even without the power of spoken words, Max Von Sydow paints the personality of a caring, reserved old man who one cannot help but like and accept.

The first 45 min of the movie I spent mostly wondering. I wondered why I couldn’t quite find a way to root for Oskar, to find him likeable. I wondered if the movie was going to be about him running around NYC trying to find a lock to fit his father’s key. I wondered why Linda let her son run around without caring much where. I wondered what the sixth voice message said. I wondered who The Renter was and why I had to care. I wondered why all these people welcomed Oskar into their homes and treated him so well (not that people shouldn’t do that, but most people don’t welcome strangers into their home, not even if they are young and harmless-looking). I wondered if Thomas had actually planned for his son to find the key and the lock that fit they key. I wondered if the movie was about Oskar’s relationship with his dad, his mom, the people he visited or The Renter. I wondered how much longer I would have to wait to get at least SOME answers.

And then, after about an hour of wondering, came what I like to call the redeeming portion of the movie: things started to move along, my confusion started finding some answers. When Oskar realizes it will be nearly impossible to find the lock that fits the key, when it becomes clear that The Renter is Oskar’s grandfather, when we find out why Abby Black got so much screen time in the beginning, when we find out what the sixth message says and why Oskar hid the answering machine from his mom, when we find out what they key is for, that’s when things start to make sense. And then Linda confesses she knew of Oskar’s plan and she had been helping him all along. That, to me, was the catharsis moment when I realized I did like the movie after all. Everything started to make sense. Linda was helping Oskar deal with his grief and, in the process, she had found a way to deal with hers and get closer to her son.

What I got from the movie: Oskar lost his father way to soon, in a way that made no sense and could never make sense. He suffered greatly and, in turn, was blinded to his mother’s suffering. But in the end, his eyes are opened by other people’s suffering and through them he realizes he needs to accept the pain of losing his father instead of trying to find a way to make sense of it.

In conclusion: A movie that takes 45 minutes to reach it’s redeeming portion, not matter how fantastically redeeming that portion is, cannot be anything more than a good movie. Not exceptionally good. Definitely not good enough to win a Best Movie award.

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