Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: 'Oscar-trolling 9/11 kitsch'?

The star-studded film attempts to sensitively portray post-9/11 grief — but may be "extremely annoying" and "incredibly mawkish" instead

"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," based on an acclaimed book about a family grieving over their 9/11 loss, may be too sentimental for its own good.
(Image credit: Facebook/Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

A movie called Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close practically begs critics to mimic its title. Predictably, reviewers have taken the bait, and the results — "extremely annoying" and "incredibly mawkish"; "unbearably cute" and "deeply contrived" — aren't exactly kind. The film, which comes out on Christmas Day, is based on Jonathan Safran Foer's acclaimed novel about a young boy named Oskar (played by Thomas Horn, the precocious winner of the 2010 Jeopardy! Kids Week tournament) whose father died in the 9/11 attacks. When Oskar discovers a mysterious key in an envelope, he becomes convinced that it's one final puzzle left by his father, and explores New York City in an attempt to locate the matching lock. Directed by three-time Oscar nominee Stephen Daldry (The Hours, The Reader) and co-starring Oscar-winners Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, the film was expected to be a major awards contender, but has been largely snubbed so far. The Village Voice even labels it "Oscar-trolling 9/11 kitsch." Is the film really that much of a misfire?

It's emotionally manipulative in the worst way: The film is "a cloying exercise in sentimentality," says David Germain for the Associated Press. Daldry and screenwriter Eric Roth, who adapted Foer's complex novel, fabricate a "bizarrely contrived alternate reality" in which all elements fall into place to create a "perfect cleansing ritual for a Sept. 11 Manhattan family in mourning." But the story fails because it is so far removed from the real world and our genuine emotions. When characters predictably work through their pain after encountering Oskar on his journey, it should be "sweet and life-affirming." Instead, "it feels so extremely soppy and incredibly phony."

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