Oskar's father often devised riddles for him, and Oskar believes he has found the clue to his father's last mystery: a key in an envelope, hidden in a vase. The envelope has the word "Black" written on it. Oskar becomes convinced that once he finds the lock this key fits, he will learn his father's final legacy. So he looks up all of the 600-plus Blacks in the New York City phone book and sets about to talk to each one.
The search brings Oskar into contact with a wide variety of New Yorkers from a quilting circle to an angry divorcee (Viola Davis). It also brings him together with The Renter (Max von Sydow), a strange mute man who rents a room in the apartment of his grandmother (Zoe Caldwell) across the street.
At the same time, Oskar is wrestling with a secret: He keeps the family's answering machine hidden away from his crying mom (Sandra Bullock) because it contains the last recording of his father's voice.
Daldry employs much care and craft in every moment, every shot. The movie is burnished to the point where nothing will catch on its smooth surface, including any emotional attachment from the audience.
The performances are touching, particularly Bullock as the grieving mother. Von Sydow, never speaking, delivers a strong take on a man coping with decades of regret.
Screenwriter Eric Roth ("Forrest Gump") adapts Foer's novel by stressing Oskar's quirkiness, his obsessive list-making and journaling, and his beyond-his-years belief that he must be responsible for the well-being of everyone around him his grieving mother especially. In so doing, the movie infantilizes the audience's response to Thomas' death and the deaths of all the others in the towers. Because he can't comprehend the magnitude of 9/11 (something adults still haven't managed to do), the movie never even comes close.
'Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close'
A boy tries to make sense out of his father's death on 9/11 in a movie that treats that tragic day a bit too blithely.
Where • Area theaters.
When • Opens Friday, Jan. 20.
Rating • PG-13 for emotional thematic material, some disturbing images, and language.
Running time • 129 minutes.