If a man smashes your kneecaps with a crowbar, can you really say he made you “feel something”?
I pondered this as Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close forced me to listen — multiple times — to a voicemail in which Tom Hanks fake-dies in the World Trade Center on 9/11. I felt a pang in my chest, yes, but it seemed so cheap and pornographic.
If there’s a version of this movie that works buried deep beneath the surface, it’s been so poisoned with bad decisions and cloying emotional manipulation that it’s impossible to imagine.
Thomas Horn plays a possibly-autistic, possibly-PTSD-suffering tween named Oskar. His dad (Hanks) was one of those mythically perfect dead movie victims, someone who made everything better and had no flaws. He designed puzzles and games to encourage Oskar to come out of his shell. We learn this through flashbacks that are (for no clear narrative purpose) weaved in throughout the film.
Oskar finds one last clue left by his father, a key to unlock something missing (gee, think it might be a metaphor?). It forces him to interact with all sorts of exaggerated New Yorkers doing their own grieving played by talented character actors who all seem visibly uncomfortable by how bad the movie is (or maybe I’m projecting).
It’s trite and cliched, made all the more unpleasant because we have to spend the whole time with an intentionally annoying 10-year-old. And to cap it off, the ending twist is a boneheaded, patronizing “we look after our own” head-scratcher.
I’m a little bit torn whether the prestige production values that help the poison go down smoother make the movie more or less frustrating. It would be wholly easier to toss this to the dustbin if its craft was as cheap as its content; but the cast is really talented and occasionally good. Astonishingly, this isn’t the worst-case scenario for Oskar. Horn has sufficient screen presence to hint at character depth, if only the script supported it.
What we’re left with is the worst kind of Oscar-bait. It’s a cloying vomit-comet of every trope of pretentious tragic drama, turned to a self-righteous 11. And it was nominated for Best Picture! Give me a break.
- Review Project: Tom Hanks Retrospective
Very Not Good (1/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.