Published Dec 22, 2011Reducing Stephen Daldry's adaptation of the Jonathan Safran Foer novel, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, to a play on its title, Extremely Laboured & Incredibly Cloying, is glib and reductionist, but it does genuinely serve to communicate the overall feeling of this kitschy Oscar-bait in a crass "Twitter" nutshell.
Of course, this is just par for the course for the emotionally deft, but issue-preoccupied Daldry, whose resume of Oscar-nominated films about AIDS, feminism and WWII suggests desperation for legitimacy and pedigree more so than artistic integrity.
This time out, 9/11 is the issue at hand, although another global tragedy pops up later on while the viewer is being assaulted with a barrage of tearjerker manipulation. It follows the young, exceedingly awkward Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) on a journey throughout NYC, interviewing everyone with the surname "Black" after discovering an envelope with the word written on it and a key enclosed. Said envelope came from his deceased father, Thomas (Tom Hanks), who was on the 105th floor of one of the Twin Towers on the morning of 9/11.
Thomas, aside from being the sweetest dad ever to live, perpetually creating puzzles and scavenger hunts for his son when not engaging in tickle fights, liked to create elaborate games to help his son overcome life obstacles. This gives some creedence to the legitimacy of Oskar's far-fetched quest, approaching strangers – none of whom are annoyed by him – with clumsily worded questions and blurting out unlikely, tedious factoids, occasionally banging on a tambourine to ward of his fears, or something.
Because all of this comes with such convenience and sweetness, the inevitable third act reel of compounded confessionals involving recorded voicemails the morning of 9/11 from Thomas, a weird character turn for Oskar's mother (Sandra Bullock) and the revelation of a grandfather just adds fuel to a highly contrived fire.
It's as though Daldry knows if he throws enough tragedy and emotional stimuli at the viewer, they might be so distracted by their full-body sobs and snot bubbles that they won't notice how heavy-handed it all is. (Warner)