Tom Hanks Project – “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” Review

3 Apr

exloudThis is a perfect 9/11 movie anchored by the best child actor we’ve ever seen. That’s lie #1. And lie #2*. The story is fine and has its high points, but the kid was anywhere from just OK to awful depending on if you’re asking me or Caitlin**. The movie is an adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005 novel about a boy with Aspergers struggling to make sense of life after his father (Hanks) died on 9/11 in the twin towers. I’d read the novel and remembered the child’s precociousness feeling more believable and less … obnoxious than in the movie. I barely remembered the movie and knew our enjoyment would rest on if we liked the kid or not. I thought he was fine and Caitlin openly detested him, so we were out on a lot of the big emotional moments that probably would have worked if we liked him. I still found the movie to be fine, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s not even much of a showcase for our guy Tom, though he gets a few good scenes and leaves some devastating voicemails. Still, we were so out on the kid not even Hanks dying on 9/11 could squeeze any tears out of us***.

*This is one of the little tropes of the movie — for the kid’s thoughts to narrate and for him to tell us what number lie he’s on as he goes on his mission. It’s also one of the best leads we’ve ever had on the blog. Nice work, Z.

**SERIOUSLY. Like, I really, really wanted to care about this movie. The story itself was clearly well-crafted and moving, and I could see that the bones of it were good. Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer’s other novel-turned-movie, is one of my favorite movie adaptations of all time. The kid KILLS IT for me.

***And I do want to take a moment to point out here, I don’t mean that I didn’t like the character of the boy. I think that’s what hurt me even more — a child afraid to even go on the swings because he fears for his safety? A boy struggling with anxiety, and that in turn making it harder for him to interact with those around him? Be still my heart! The actor, Thomas Horn, is a TERRIBLE actor. I feel like he was chosen only because he has some super-blue eyes which are somehow supposed to blind us to all of his over-acting. His only other IMDB credits are winning Kid’s Jeopardy and a movie called Space Warriors, so draw your own conclusions.

 

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The movie starts a year after 9/11. Oskar decides to go into his dad’s closet, smells his old clothes and accidentally breaks a vase that holds a key in an envelope. The envelope says “Black” on it, so Oskar decides this means someone with the last name Black gave this key to his dad and he has to go on a hunt to find this person and whatever the key unlocks. It’s a bit of a jump*, but this kid would fit right in with Thomas Middleditch and Lauren Lapkus’ “Kid Detective” characters on Comedy Bang Bang. So he systematically makes his way through NYC borough by borough meeting hundreds of New Yorkers with the last name Black to see if they know anything about this key.

*My guess is, in the book, because Oskar’s dad has left him so many clues and led him on so many adventures in the past, he may have thought this was his final message from his father, the last adventure that could connect him to his dad.

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Eventually he gets the help of the guy renting a room in his grandma’s apartment who, spoiler alert, is his grandpa. It’s a strong supporting role, actually strong enough to earn Max von Sydow a best supporting actor nomination. Grandpa had a traumatic experience early in life and only communicates by holding up the yes and no tattoos on his hands or a series of notes scribbled in notebooks. He’s a good foil for Oskar, who talks way too much.

(L-r) THOMAS HORN as Oskar and TOM HANKS as Oskar’s father in Warner Bros. Pictures’ drama “EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.The movie is mostly told in order as Oskar goes through the phone book looking for the right “Black,” but we get a number of flashbacks to Hanks spending time with him and the reveal of the six voicemails Tom left for his son in between when the first plane hit and when the tower crumbles. This is one of the better Hanks performances as a father. He really gets his son and what makes him tick and makes incredibly complex puzzles for him. I got most of my laughs in from his little mannerisms. I definitely agree that Hanks’ performance is stellar in the film.

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The movie is pretty exhausting at times, but it ends well. Oskar finds out the “Black” he was looking for was the divorcing couple he met at stop #1. The key belonged to the man above’s deceased father’s safety deposit box*. Oskar visits the man and they have a heart to heart in an exchange that somehow leads to him getting back with his wife. Oskar comes home disappointed that his search is over and the key isn’t for him. But to his surprise, his mom, Sandra Bullock, makes him feel loved by revealing that she was on to his little search and had been going house to house before he went there to warn the various “Black” folks that her precocious son would be coming. They bond, the grandpa comes home after leaving briefly and to Caitlin’s dismay, Sandra Bullock never gets to hear Hanks’ voicemails**.

*This actor is named Jeffrey Wright, and he gets me closer to tears than anyone in the whole film (still didn’t even tear up, BUT). For the small part he plays in the film, he plays it SO well — and off such an amateur!

**Like, WTF is that?!? Yes, I get that it would be SUPER painful. But she even says to Oskar, “Sometimes I just wish I could hear his voice one more time, and hear him say that he loved me.” Like. That’s literally the voice machine message. YOU ASSHOLE KID.

Laugh Out Loud Caitlin: 11 Zack: 8 We were both hovering at around five laughs a piece before a run of “funny” bits when Sandra and Oskar discuss all the “Black” members they met. I laughed at Hanks’ shoulder shrug move and his goofy faces. I still don’t even believe I laughed 11 times. I feel like I went “heh” like 2 times.

Comedy Caitlin: N/A  Zack: 3 This is not a funny movie, but I think it’s kinda trying to be so it gets a score. Oskar is so plucky and it feels like it’s being played for laughs, but boy I wish you’d seen Caitlin’s face struggling through watching him. I don’t think it’s trying to be a comedy at all, so N/A from me. Yes, they tried to create some easier moments to break things up, but like, this movie is about coming to terms with the loss of your dad in the 9/11 attacks. Not a comedy.

Cry/Eye Cover: Both: 0. We would have cried if the kid was a better actor. A bit surprised Caitlin never covered her eyes at 9/11 footage, but it never got too graphic. I do like the way they handled the 9/11 stuff. It’s so hard to revisit that footage and those memories, and I really wanted to feel emotionally connected with the film for that reason. But jesus that kid actor. Just took me right out of it.

romanceRomance: Caitlin: 7 Zack: 6 Tom and Sandy are kinda cute together. We really don’t see them interact much, so it’s hard to give them too high a score. They’re believable as husband and wife and co-parents to Oskar, but this is far more about Oskar’s relationship to each of them than their relationship to each other. We definitely feel her grief at having lost him. I’d go higher on this score, because despite not being seen together almost at all, the scene where Hanks is calling Bullock from the twin towers (which happen to be in view across from her Manhattan office building) is incredibly moving. I definitely buy Tom and Sandy more than Tom and disgusting Julia Roberts ugh.

Hanks: Caitlin: 9.2 Zack: 8.9 I thought Tom was pretty excellent here. He doesn’t get a 9 or higher since he couldn’t bring a tear out of me from his dying voicemails, but he was an inspired father and brought a lot of depth to his character in just a few scenes. One of his better small roles. I don’t blame Tom at all for not making me cry during his voicemails. Again, if I gave a shit about the kid and could put myself in his shoes (e.g. if he was a believable character versus THIS IS A KID ACTING IN THIS ACTING MOVIE ACTING), I’d have definitely cried. Tom is stellar.

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Movie: Caitlin: 5.5 Zack: 7.4 It’s a C. There are some good scenes and performances in here, but eh. Not a lot of laughing. No tears. An annoying main character and not nearly enough Hanks. We’ll watch it again soon. That was lie #3. It’s an F, and unless they remake it with a new kid actor edited in to every scene, I’ll never watch it again. So disappointing.

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