As I walked into the 4:30 showing of “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” my stomach churned. I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close when I was fifteen years old and it’s stayed with me, entirely, since the day I finished it. The intimate story of young Oscar Schell and the beautiful portrait of loss through tragedy has been one I’ve held close for many years. Therefore when I finally was able to see it in theaters, the nervousness ran deep. Were they really going to ruin another beautiful piece of literature? I couldn’t be sure. However, I could only hope the movie represented Foer’s intricate storyline accurately.
Oscar Schell is a young boy with autistic tendencies living in New York City before 9/11. He lives with his mother and father, but he also has regular visits with his grandmother who lives across the street. His father constantly challenges his son with different quests, forcing him to communicate with people. The story begins on that horrific morning in 2001, when Oscar comes home early from school without entirely knowing what is going on. It is when he walks inside his family’s apartment that he hears his father leaving a message from the World Trade Center.
Oscar is overwhelmed with despair over the loss of his father and for an entire year he avoids his father’s closet. Just when he begins feeling his father slipping away, Oscar returns to see the closet just as it was left the day of the tragedy. While trying to climb above his father’s clothing to see an old camera that used to belong to his grandfather, Oscar knocks over a blue vase. It breaks and inside is a pouch, with the word BLACK written across the side. Inside the pouch is a key.
The story revolves around Oscar’s search for the lock that this key opens. He believes his father meant for him to discover it and therefore searches the apartment of every Black in the entire city for the place where the key fits.
I’m going to begin with something obvious. The book is better. A thousand times better. It is funnier, it is sadder, it is much more beautiful, but that doesn’t mean the movie isn’t great. Actor Thomas Horn does a magnificent job at portraying the infinitely brilliant and awkward Oscar Schell. He expresses every quirk with perfection and I could not have imagined a better actor myself. As supporting characters, Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks both broke my heart as Oscar’s wonderfully accepting parents. Overall, the cast was fantastic.
As for the story, it’s also brilliant. While, it does leave out several plot points that are very important in the novel, it’s still a good movie. I don’t think I’ve ever cried as hard during a movie as I did during this one, but there were so many quirks that couldn’t be included because of their limited time frame. However, the writers did a great job at orchestrating an amazing book within the timeframe of two hours. They may not have captured everything, but they captured enough to make a very good movie.
However, if you saw the movie and loved the characters—read the book! I’ve never in my life read another book that has made me cry and laugh within the span of a few pages. The movie captured a story about a little boy coming to terms with losing his father, Foer’s novel captures a significant commentary on the reality death and tragedy through the eyes of many different characters. It may have been a good movie, but it is an amazing book.