Since the project was announced, Oscar gurus have been keeping an eye on Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the film adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's 2005 novel about a precocious Manhattan boy coming to terms with his father's death on 9/11. And for good reason: The film stars Oscar winners Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, and is directed by the frequently honored Stephen Daldry (The Hours). The trailer for the film, which is set for a Christmas release, has just been released. (Watch the trailer below.) Here are five things people are talking about:
1. This movie is tailor-made for Oscar
Given the talent involved, this film seems like a "Franken-stitched experiment in engineering the perfect Oscar movie," says Sean O'Neal at The A.V. Club. First, you have Hanks and Bullock, in her first role since her win for The Blind Side. Then there's screenwriter Eric Roth, a previous winner for Forrest Gump. Finally, director Steven Daldry's three previous films (The Reader, The Hours, Billy Elliot) have amassed 17 Oscar nominations — including Best Director each time. And, of course, it's a film about a young boy grieving after 9/11, a classic Oscar-bait scenario. "Geez," says Kevin Jagernauth at Indie Wire. "Can you tell this one is looking for Oscars?"
2. Then again, Foer's book may be hard to adapt for film
The plot of Jonathan Safran Foer's best seller could be tricky to translate into film, says Kyle Buchanan at New York. Hanks's character dies on 9/11, leaving behind his wife, played by Bullock, and an 11-year-old son named Oskar. Oskar discovers a key left by his dad, and sets out to find the lock that fits it; meanwhile, in a tricky subplot, Oskar's grandfather has flashbacks to the WWII bombings of Dresden. Foer's "swirling pirouettes of language and description" may also have been problematic while adapting the film, says Richard Lawson at Gawker. Hold on, says Jacqueline Burt at The Stir. The film may actually be better than the book. Aspects of the novel that bugged critics, like its sentimentality and complex structure, "are the exact same qualities that I think will make the movie amazing."
3. The lead character was cast after winning Jeopardy!
It's rare that such a high-profile film is anchored by an actor as young and inexperienced as Thomas Horn (Oskar), who was discovered after winning the 2009 Jeopardy! Teen Tournament. Judging by the trailer, he is a "bit diction-heavy and willowy of limb" to be playing a scrappy 9-year-old, says Lawson.
4. 9/11 films are tricky to pull off
The many movies about 9/11 have done notoriously poorly at the box office, says Jake Coyle at Bloomberg Businessweek. Refreshingly, Daldry appears to have approached the subject "with a more sensitive hand" than the directors of films like Remember Me, which exploited the tragedy for "cheap dramatic effect," says Sandy Schaefer at Screen Rant. That doesn't erase the fact that Foer's book was "so unimaginably heartbreaking" that it required long breaks from reading, says Aly Semigran at Entertainment Weekly. The trailer hints that the film "might be just as weepy." The bottom-line question, says Damon Houx at Screen Crave, is whether Extremely Loud will be "shameless emotional manipulation or effective emotional manipulation."
5. The jarring use of U2 in the trailer is worrisome
For all of the trailer's "high-falutin' awards artsy-fartsiness," says Buchanan, the use of U2's rousing "Where the Streets Have No Name" suggests that Extremely Loud is making a bid for the mainstream. But its use is distractingly cloying, says Kate Erbland at Film School Rejects, and tugs at the heart strings so manipulatively that it's "almost hilariously terrible." This could be a very bad sign.
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