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.