It’s been ten years since 9/11 and thus the time is ripe for Hollywood to step in and remind us how to feel about it. The mechanism? An adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s earnest and thinky 2005 novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which, judging from the just-released trailer, maintains the importance of being earnest but drops the thinkiness down a few pegs. To sum up: Tom Hanks is a perfectly Tom Hanks-ian father to a moon-faced, inquisitive, tambourine-playing son. Sandra Bullock, having finally gained industry permission to play the sort of toothless, maternal roles as the rest of the over-40 actresses in town, plays the boy’s mom. Then the planes start hitting buildings, U2 starts chiming on the soundtrack, and we appear to be on a one-way journey to schmaltzville, replete with a magical-realist quest (Hanks leaves a mysterious key from beyond the grave), fast flashes grief-stricken ethnic faces, and exactly the sort of stolid supporting performers you want to invest in if you hope to strike Academy gold in the motion picture postseason (Jeffrey Wright, Viola Davis, John Goodman).
Of course, there’s a very real chance that director Stephen Daldry has managed to craft an affecting movie from this disaster hash. It’s unfair to pre-judge too harshly as the accepted first step to successfully marketing a cinematic version of an introverted novel is to cast as wide and as emo a net as possible. So let’s instead take the trailer for what it is — not necessarily a first look at an upcoming movie but a fairly effective summation of the 9/11 decade, a time when twee solemnity replaced irony and anger and only an Irish band could provide the soundtrack to a distinctly American moment. The trailer projects a world in which every door can be opened, every mystery solved, every sob can be comforted if only we are hopeful and/or quirky enough. Honestly it makes us turn instead to a great domestic song from the snarky era that immediately predeceded that terrible September day, one that seems particularly appropriate here as Hanks and Bullock prepare to squeeze the sadness, snark and vibrancy right out of us. It’s called “Smothered In Hugs.”