EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE
(directed by Stephen Daldry, 2011)
***+ (out of 5)
> I hear this Best Picture Oscar nominee was a much better book than this film turned out to be. It’s the story of a precocious boy who loses his father in the 9-11 Twin Tower attacks. Convinced his playful dad left a mysterious key behind as a “clue” for him- the boy begins playing detective, determined to find the lock that fits the key- a great idea in a good, but not great film.
. The boy appears to have a mild form of Autism, making him not very good with people. Unfortunately, audiences are made of people. Better casting might have done the trick, but I’ll bet it’s tough to find a boy that age who can actually act and react believably enough to carry an entire film. Alas this was not the boy for the job. He was often so whiny I just wanted him to shut up for a moment. Tom Hanks as dad is too good to be true- more of a caricature than a character. He’s not just a good dad- he’s the World’s Greatest Dad, a stereotype with no depth whatsoever. Sandra Bullock as mom is getting better as she get older, and her big reveal at the end would have been more embarrassingly precious in the hands of a lesser actress. It’s all so self-consciously manipulative, such cloying treacle, yet it has moments of transcendence that truly bring a tear to the eye.
. Best of all, Max Von Sydow is just spectacularly good as the boy’s silent sidekick- a mysterious mute neighbor who communicates flashing either a “yes” or “no” printed palm and writing notes. If any living actor doesn’t need words to communicate beautifully, it’s this Swedish Ingmar Bergman regular, who has given some of the very best performances ever set to film- from THE SEVENTH SEAL to THE EXORCIST, from THE VIRGIN SPRING to PELLE THE CONQUEROR. As a Hollywood character actor- now in his early eighties, he is usually all but wasted in mainstream films- often relegated to playing the ominous foreign bad guy. I’m so happy for him that he got this part, and that the Academy had the wisdom to nominate his amazing performance in this film for Best Supporting Actor.
> If for no other reason, the great Max Von Sydow’s finely modulated performance is a good reason to see this earnest film.
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