Sunday, February 5, 2012

Stephen Daldry: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Nick Horn, Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Warner Bros., 2012.

Stephen Daldry is a consummate craftsman who chooses questionable material and delivers it questionably. His grasp of cinematic energy is obvious, yet the methods which he employs to unfold his plots are condescending and manipulative to say the least.

His debut film was the hugely overrated Billy Elliot, which set the tone for his career thus far; elements of excellence aswim in a sea of shit.

His sophomore feature, The Hours, was a masterpiece which betrayed what agreeable material he could translate into something important and immense. The easy transitions in time and space, as well as his cast of brilliant actresses and crew of ingenius craftsmen, delivered the ultimate women's melodrama. Cukor and Sirk would have been pleased.

But to follow that excellence with the cliches and foul plot manuevres of The Reader, another overrated film featuring top-notch acting was an act of career-masochism at its most acute. His new picture, the obnoxiously titled Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, is a gratingly obvious literary adaptation featuring one of the most disagreeable child actors (Nick Horn) in some time. Although admittedly talented (he carries the film) he is insufferable, portraying a supremely annoying character. The plot is ludicrous to say the least, and all we are left with is Daldry & company's artistry, and an excellent cast. Sandra Bullock has never been better, which is sad because this movie is awful. Her grasp and inhabitation of her character are astonishing. Max Von Sydow and Viola Davis are both deeply moving.

The theme of 9/11 and its affect on the victims' families is mishandled grossly. Aside from the wretched plot machinations, Chris Menges' camerawork is gorgeous and Alexandre Desplat's score is fantastically woven. If only Daldry could get past the trendy literary adaptations and sub-par Spielbergian water wells, we would all be better off. This film and Tate Taylor's execrable The Help are the two worst best picture nominees in the last decade. In the same year!!!!

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