Movie vs. Book: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Often times, we think the book version of a story is without a doubt better than the movie adaptation. For me, they’re often on the same level. But in the case of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I found the movie to be far superior to the novel.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close tells the story of 9-year-old Oskar, whose father has died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. Oskar sets out on a mission to locate the lock to a key he found in one of his father’s vases. The search brings him on a journey across the city — a hunt for something his father left behind, a mission to reconnect with his dad one last time.

Though I enjoyed the overall story of the book, I disliked the ending and had a lot of problems with the book’s subplots and characters. There are a number of details, characters, and subplots the movie left out entirely, and that’s why I think the movie is better. For instance, it eliminates the narration by Oskar’s grandparents and their backstory. I didn’t care about the grandparents in the novel. I found them to be unlikable and more of a nuisance than an addition to Oskar’s story. By eliminating that subplot from the movie, Oskar and his search are better developed. And let’s be honest; that’s the story we really care about anyway.

Another big change the movie made was deleting the character Mr. Black, who — in the book — explores the city with Oskar and makes sure he’s safe. Instead, the movie substitutes Mr. Black with Oskar’s grandfather. Though Mr. Black is one of my favorite characters from the book, I’m actually okay with the movie giving this role to Oskar’s grandfather. It allows them to build a relationship, and a grandson-grandfather relationship is far more important than a friendship.

Then there’s the ending. In the novel, the ending is heartbreakingly disappointing. After months of searching, Oskar finds out to whom the key belongs and what it opens. But he also learns it has no relation to his father. I remember feeling angry when I read the ending. But seeing it on film made me realize it was more about the journey than the end result. The movie and Sandra Bullock (as Oskar’s mother) also do an excellent job of portraying the moment Oskar’s mother tells him she knew what he was doing all along.  Up to this point, the reader/viewer thinks that Oscar’s mother must be completely self-absorbed and terrible. But when we learn that she made an effort to contact all of the people Oskar visits in his search, we realize how wonderful she is. Oskar and his mother have finally found a way to connect.

The movie also makes the ending more uplifting when Oskar finds a note from his father in Central Park. It was the final piece of a puzzle he had tried to solve before his father’s death. If I remember correctly, this discovered note was not a part of the novel. Though unrealistic, it gives Oskar closure, knowing he did, in fact, solve one of his father’s last puzzles. In the book, there’s no uplifting moment at the end. That’s why the movie is a beautiful look at relationships, family, and life’s mysteries, whereas the book is often times a depressing mess of emotions.

**Thomas Horn (Oskar) also shows off unbelievable acting chops for such a young age. His passion brought me to tears on multiple occasions and should not be overlooked.

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4 Comments

Filed under Movie vs. Book, Reviews

4 responses to “Movie vs. Book: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

  1. N

    “I think the movie is better.”

    Is that a joke or…

  2. MJ

    I can not agree with you at all. The film was just a Hollywood movie, tears running down. Not clever at all. Whereas the book could catch me, could make me feel the pain this boy is experiencing. There can not be a happy end…

  3. Rinn

    Please forgive me as I am not trying to offend in anyway merely stating my own opinion, but I fail to see why a happy ending is necessary. Maybe it’s personal preference one of the main problems I had with the movie was that very end where he finds the note from his father. It felt tacked on and disjointed from the rest of the film and actually did feel as though it was put in to keep the movie goers happy.
    Please don’t get me wrong. The movie itself was beautiful filmed, consisted of some wonderful acting and was over all very well done. However it’s had for me to except it as the full story. While the grandparent’s story may have been a “sub plot” it was an important aspect to the book and as such it was missed in the film. Personally I feel that they could do at least one more movie from the perspective of his grandfather, and possibly even his grandmother just so that you fully understand what it is that is really going on. I just really missed that in the movie.
    Forgive me for throwing all of my opinions out here randomly and I am in no way trying to tell you that yours are wrong. I would just like to let mine be known as well.
    I also understand that it’s been quite a while since this post was created so this comment may seem a bit out of the blue but I am currently working on a paper comparing the movie and the book and peoples reactions and how they were impacted so I’d like to thank you for taking the time to write out you’re opinions. It’s good to see other perspectives on topic.

  4. Interesting to read a review that preferred the film to the novel when the film received so many poor reviews.
    I’m afraid I’d have to agree with the other comments though because I loved the book, particularly the intricacy that has gone in to developing this plot. I personally loved the grandparent’s narratives because it showed another key aspect to trauma and PTSD.
    I hated the ending of the film too, it seemed like another cheap attempt from Hollywood to just provide a generic ‘happy’ ending and they appeared to lay it on too thick which diminished the power of the novel which required an in-depth reading.
    I’ve written my own review on the novel, let me know what you think – I love discussing this book:
    http://pauldurkin.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/extremely-loud-incredibly-close-destry-the-film/

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