The Battle for an Oscar: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Sarah Robbins ('13)/Eastside staff

By now you must have heard of the movie that treads the line between a sentimental portrayal of a grief-ridden family and a wrenching story of the horrors of 9/11. Set in a Manhattan flat, in 2002, 9-year-old Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) lives alone with his mother (Sandra Bullock). They are both struggling to overcome the loss of Oskar’s father (Tom Hanks), who perished in the tragedy of 9/11. The film is set up as a series of flashbacks that tell the story of Oskar’s life, before what he calls “the worst day.”

Anything but average, Oskar is portrayed as quirky, imaginative, inventive and thirsting for knowledge. After his father dies he finds a key with the mysterious inscription “Black,” and decides it must lead to a message from his father. Teaming up with his mute grandfather (Max Von Sydow), Oskar embarks on a desperate journey throughout New York to find what may be the last message from his father.

With a plot as picture perfect as that, featuring actors like Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump), Viola Davis (The Help) and Thomas Horn, how could the film be anything but perfect? Unfortunately, this film does not seem as destined for success as Stephen Daltry’s last film,The Reader. Coupling a small boy’s journey with the trauma of 9/11 feels more like a cheap way to gain tears than a heartfelt portrayal of the tragedy.

The film also received mixed view from the critics. Some felt the movie was sincerely heart- wrenching, while New York Times critic Manohla Dargis called it “yet another wellspring of generic emotions.”

The constant flashbacks to the twin towers do more to upset the audience than actually move along the plot. Tom Long from the Detroit News describes this as “crass sentimentality.”

Surprisingly, this film was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor, Max Von Sydow.  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has actually received the worst reviews of any movie nominated for an Oscar in the last ten years, receiving a mere 48 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

If you’re looking for a tear-jerker to remember the horrors of 9/11, this is the movie to see. But for anything else-from plot to characters- it falls short. First Oskar meets Viola Davis, a woman crying after a fight with her husband. Shortly after, he meets an old man who refuses to talk after the death of his wife, and communicates by writing on his hands. The constant influx of teary-eyed characters makes the movie feel unrealistic. Indeed, the most uplifting part was Oskar’s miraculous ability to run from borough to borough without adult supervision.