Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) and Wife Versus Secretary (1936)

Watched January 21, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011): 3.7/5
This review contains a few spoilers of minor elements of the film.
Also, keep in mind that I have not read the book!

Let’s start with the positives: Newcomer Thomas Horn as Oskar, Max von Sydow as The Renter and John Goodman in the very small role of Stan the Doorman give stellar performances.

The cinematography is beautiful, and there is an interesting use of tilt-shift throughout the film. It also takes a very widely impacting event, 9/11, and turns the focus from the typical “Where were YOU when it happened?” to one boy’s painful experience. We often focus on our own relationship to the tragic events that September, so I found it quite startling to see such a personal portrayal of the events.

There were problems with this film. Tom Hanks is likable, but does not stand out. Sandra Bullock also gives a lukewarm performance in what could have been a very emotionally charged role, as the wife of a man who passed away as a result of the tragedy.

The scenes showing 9/11 aren’t very realistic, which seems to be a common complaint with the film. Based on the footage I’ve seen from New York, blue sky could not be seen that day — everything was ash. But blue sky is abundant in this film. I can see why they might try to downplay these scenes. Those events are still a sensitive subject to many people, and the filmmakers were probably trying to convey them in a tasteful and respectful way. But why try to downplay the destruction and chaos, while also including images of Tom Hanks falling from a building? Those images seemed to stir up many more  negative reactions from the audience than an accurate portrayal of what it was like on the ground would have.

Jimmy Stewart and Jean Harlow star as a workaholic secretary and her jealous boyfriend in Wife Versus Secretary (1936) (Still via doctormacro.com)

Wife Versus Secretary (1936): 5/5
This review contains no spoilers. You may read along happily! :)

Maybe my positive bias toward Myrna Loy and Clark Gable is showing here, but I absolutely loved this film. Gable’s delivery in this film is perfectly on-point and very funny. There is a great bunch of witty banter between Gable and Loy’s characters, and they pull it off in such a way that it is believable. They’re just such a fun pair to watch.

This isn’t just your typical romantic comedy, either — it takes your emotions on a roller-coaster. This may have been unintentional on part of the filmmakers, but in the beginning of the film I saw more chemistry between Gable and Jean Harlow (the secretary) than Gable and Loy  (the wife). By the end of the film, however, my sympathy for Loy’s plight had grown and I desperately wanted things to work out between herself and her husband!

These compelling lead performances topped off by a fantastic supporting cast (which includes a young Jimmy Stewart, in his third full-length feature) and slight twists in the plot make for a dramatic, comedic, and completely enjoyable film.

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