Slowly but surely I've been crossing nominees off of my Oscar screening list. A few nights ago, Andrea and I went to see Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, one of the nine nominees for Best Picture this year. I'll be blunt about this one, it wasn't very good.
The trailer for this flick had me excited, sort of the way I felt after seeing the trailer for United 93. I was imaging an emotional, but heartfelt picture about an innocent kid and his soul searching quest to find meaning against the backdrop of 9/11. It looked genuine and fresh.
The problem I had immediately with the film was the kid, to be honest. Part of his back-story is that he has some kind of social disorder or disability (never really defined in the movie) that makes him awkward and emotionally abrupt. He was always on the verge of a panic attack or he was flying off the walls with rage. In the first thirty minutes all I kept thinking was, what is his problem? How am I supposed to relate to him if he's so aggravating to watch? And, really? Someone thought audiences wouldn't find it annoying to centre such a sensitive story around a character who is already this disconnected from reality to begin with?
Like I said, I expected an emotional story, but the kid overwhelms every aspect of the narrative. His ticks and commentary seemed so gratuitous and heavy handed that I was actually relieved when some of the supporting players finally got a bit of screen time.
The thread of the film is the quest to find a lock for a key that is found in the father's closet after he dies during the attacks. I actually really liked the concept, but was scratching my head again when it wasn't really explained why the key should be relevant to begin with. Even the close relationship between the father and son didn't really justify that this seemingly random find would be worthy of scouring the city to find answers for. I suppose it could be argued that the quest to find meaning in some of these traumatic events is a hopeless search, but I still found myself thinking that wouldn't the kid be more content to search out a part of his father's actual history? Something that he already knew was important to his father?
I know in my own experiences in dealing with loss that I'm not looking to give random items more meaning. You end up looking to expand on the things that you already knew meant something - unfinished business. The proposed scavenger hunt in Extremely Loud didn't seem grounded enough in many aspects.
When all is said and done though, I would have overlooked so many of the film's flaws if the kid was more relatable, a bit more innocent, more wide-eyed, more raw, and just far less stunted. In a story that was genuinely full of compelling connections and human stories, why have the main character fight against all of those naturally inspiring encounters instead of adding to them? Why distract us with painfully enigmatic narration and a kid who you have to will yourself to even root for? In short, it was the perfect recipe to continually disconnect from the plot.
It may be a bit harsh, but this flick isn't anywhere close to being one of the best films from 2011 and certainly shouldn't have been nominated in my opinion. If you really want to watch a powerful film surrounding 9/11, there are literally ten other flicks that I could recommend to you - United 93 for starters. Do yourself a favor and embrace the trailer for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and then move on to the other nominees.