Monday, January 9, 2012

Extremely Anxious and Incredibly Nervous to see this film

I have been waiting - anxiously - for the film version of Jonathan Safran Foer's stunning novel Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close for ages and ages. Anxiously because I adored this book and was afraid it would be too dense and too difficult a book to adapt. And to watch.
If you have read the book, you know what I mean. Oskar Schell is no ordinary boy; he's extraordinary. I have a personal theory that he may have Aspergers (a form of high functioning autism) but that's not presented in the novel and I haven't researched that. It's just my hunch that this amazingly bright and creative and sharply focused boy who has no friends of his own age and who has been so indulged by the adults in his life probably has Aspergers. I love Safran Foer's Oskar. I was afraid, from the seeing the trailer, that the filmmakers would turn him into a pedantic, unlikeable, little fuss-budget.
And I was - and still am - afraid of how I might react emotionally to the film. Reading the book at home,  I cried and cried. Streaming tears. Uncontrollable. I do NOT want that to happen in a theatre. So I'm dying to see it and terrified to see it. But it's not playing in my suburb yet. I would have to drive 45 minutes to see it in Hollywood which is a really good excuse for delaying the pain - the pain of being heartbroken if it's terrible. The pain of breaking down publicly in a theatre if it mimics the book!
I just read this review by David Denby.  Here's some of what he had to say. To read the entire review, go HERE
 
SPOILER ALERT (just don't read this if you don't want to know!)
 
I have a horrible feeling that my worries have been warranted! Except maybe in regards to Tom Hanks who I have been dreading as the father. (Oh I have blogged ad nauseum about that. Go to the Search bar to see my other posts about Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close) Anyway, here's what Denby says

“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” is an example of what happens when an author’s fluent literary conceits give way to the sight of all-too-human people moving and talking in the real-world spaces of a movie. Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005 novel is about a nine-year-old boy, Oskar Schell, who has lost his father, Thomas, in a collapsing tower on September 11, 2001. A year later, rummaging through Thomas’s things, Oskar finds an envelope containing a key, which he assumes will unlock a box or something that will reveal a new aspect of his father to him. The word “Black” is written on the envelope, so Oskar runs all over New York looking for people with that name. The pursuit is a way of holding on to his father, of keeping the lines of communication open, of refusing to close the door. The boy’s voice, as Foer creates it, is a babbling brook of hopes and questions and bits of information on every imaginable subject. In the novel, we can enjoy all of this heroic spieling and exploring as a form of antic play. It never occurs to us that an actual little boy, however bright, however maddened by grief, could talk this way. Oskar’s voice is a writer’s virtuoso construction, and Foer combines it with the voice of Oskar’s grandfather, photographs of falling bodies, odd dialogues, lists of numbers, garbled paragraphs, nearly blank pages, and many other typographical adventures. The novel is a kind of postmodernist collage stained with tears.

In the movie, which was written by Eric Roth and directed by Stephen Daldry, Oskar (Thomas Horn) is eleven and fully there, front and center on the street, a skinny kid with floppy brown hair and blue eyes. Both hyperactive and secretive, he is irritated by his living mom (Sandra Bullock) and in love with his deceased dad (Tom Hanks, seen generously in flashback). Oskar feverishly roams the Upper West Side, where he lives, and every other part of the city, barging in on people with his strange story about a key and possible discovery about his father’s nature. He’s a bundle of anxieties—or so he says. (To us, he seems extraordinarily confident.) As he rushes across a bridge, or through the streets, he shakes a tambourine to ward off terror, which is funny and touching exactly once. ... What Foer was getting at in his novel, I think, was the pathos of over-cerebration, the endless, self-feeding excitement of a terrific mind that can’t stop spinning. Much of what Oskar says in the book is amusingly beside the point. Onscreen, however, the sound of a hyper-articulate boy talking semi-nonsense becomes very hard to take. Young Thomas Horn rips through the part; verbally, he’s very adroit. Yet photographic and psychological realism destroy Oskar as a character. We can’t help noticing, for instance, that he’s unconscionably selfish in his relations with others, that only his own grief is real to him. He scorns his mother, hiding from her the answering machine on which Thomas, trapped in the tower, left his increasingly fearful last messages. There’s a reason that Oskar hides the machine (replacing it with another), but we don’t find out what it is until the end. (Turning so excruciating a plot point into a suspense factor feels rather cheap.) Looking at Oskar, we know that it’s unfair to expect an eleven-year-old to have a rounded moral sense, but what are we going to learn from “Extremely Loud”? That the boy has to accept death, like the rest of us? Sorry, but there must be richer ways of dramatizing so obvious a theme. Embodied, Oskar is a pain. After a while, we find ourselves thinking not of grief but of entitled kids who have been praised for every bright remark they’ve ever made.
 ...  An elderly gent (Max von Sydow), who turns out to be Oskar’s mysterious grandfather, shows up and moves in with the grandmother. He hasn’t spoken in years, but he communicates with his palms, on one of which is written “Yes” and on the other “No.” He writes out longer messages on a pad. A little of that goes a long way, too, though the emotion in von Sydow’s heavy, silent face is an enormous relief from Oskar’s incessant prattle. When Oskar starts to play the messages on the machine for the old man, he signals the boy to stop—after all, Thomas Schell is his son. He wants the boy to shut up, and, with all the sympathy in the world, the audience may wish the same."
As you can imagine, the thought of wanting Oskar to just shut up makes me very, very sad. Of course I will see the movie myself. I will bring a box of Kleenex and an indulgent attitude. As I said, I love Oskar and like a parent, I'm prepared to find his oddities endearing. The little boy has, after all, been through a lot. He deserves a little patience, a little love.

2 comments:

  1. I did read this book several years ago, and thought it was okay. Not sure if I will see the movie at the theater or wait until it comes to DVD.

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  2. It sounds like you can take it or leave it so either way is okay. Thanks for taking the time to stop by!

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