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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Thomas Horn and Tom Hanks star in "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close."
Few events in recent history have exerted as deeply personal an impact on the lives of millions of Americans, and of people across the globe, as the attacks of 9/11.

So it's odd and a little baffling that a film based on our national tragedy of a decade ago should register—for most of its two-hour-plus running time, at least—as uninvolving.

Yet such is the case with "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" (Warner Bros.), director Stephen Daldry's grim screen version of the best-selling novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. Though his drama focuses on community, shared suffering and familial solidarity, and upholds positive, humanistic values, various factors within it seem to conspire to keep the audience at a distance.

To begin with, there's the eccentric personality of the movie's main character, introverted grade schooler Oskar Schell. While newcomer Thomas Horn does an admirable job of inhabiting Oskar, this young Manhattanite is anything but an Everyman—or perhaps Everyboy.

Oskar may or may not have the mild form of autism known as Asperger's syndrome; tests, he tells us at one point, were inconclusive. But he is undeniably pan-phobic, and the only thing that seems to soothe him—as he runs the gauntlet of such fear-inducing elements of New York life as subways, elevators and loud noises—is his ever-present tambourine.

Of course, Oskar has more reason to be fearful than most, given that his devoted father, Thomas (Tom Hanks), perished in the World Trade Center.

Devastated by his sudden loss, Oskar seeks diversion, as well as a prolonged sense of closeness to his dad, in an unusual quest. He's out to identify the purpose of a mysterious key he discovered among Thomas' belongings.

His search gains him the friendship of the traumatized German immigrant (Max von Sydow) who lodges with his grandmother. And it ultimately brings him closer to his seemingly grief-paralyzed mom, Linda (Sandra Bullock).

But the diffuse nature of his journey, which brings him into contact with a whole series of strangers—including, among others, a sympathetic transvestite—is another alienating, or at least distracting element for viewers.

While not suitable for Oskar's real-life peers, his story is presented in a way that most adults will find acceptable, a few rude puns exchanged with his building's doorman Stan (John Goodman) notwithstanding. But, as scripted by Eric Roth, his tale is likely to prove more emotionally trying than genuinely cathartic.

The film contains mature themes, some disturbing images, a transvestite character, a couple of crude terms and occasional vulgar wordplay. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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James: This James is the brother of John the Evangelist. The two were called by Jesus as they worked with their father in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had already called another pair of brothers from a similar occupation: Peter and Andrew. “He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:19-20). 
<p>James was one of the favored three who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus and the agony in Gethsemani. </p><p>Two incidents in the Gospels describe the temperament of this man and his brother. St. Matthew tells that their mother came (Mark says it was the brothers themselves) to ask that they have the seats of honor (one on the right, one on the left of Jesus) in the kingdom. “Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We can’” (Matthew 20:22). Jesus then told them they would indeed drink the cup and share his baptism of pain and death, but that sitting at his right hand or left was not his to give—it “is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23b). It remained to be seen how long it would take to realize the implications of their confident “We can!” </p><p>The other disciples became indignant at the ambition of James and John. Then Jesus taught them all the lesson of humble service: The purpose of authority is to serve. They are not to impose their will on others, or lord it over them. This is the position of Jesus himself. He was the servant of all; the service imposed on him was the supreme sacrifice of his own life. </p><p>On another occasion, James and John gave evidence that the nickname Jesus gave them—“sons of thunder”—was an apt one. The Samaritans would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to hated Jerusalem. “When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them...” (Luke 9:54-55). </p><p>James was apparently the first of the apostles to be martyred. “About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:1-3a). </p><p>This James, sometimes called James the Greater, is not to be confused with James the Lesser (May 3) or with the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.</p> American Catholic Blog Walk the talk. Show, don’t tell. Values are caught, not taught—all variations of one theme: A good example is essential for good parenting.

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