Jonathan Safran Foer’s impressive follow-up to Everything Is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, is making its way to the big screen, and despite the talent that’s being put behind it, my guess is that it won’t be a much better book-to-screen adaptation than Liev Schreiber’s Illuminated was. Extremely Loud follows a precocious boy — an amateur inventor, jewelry designer, astrophysicist, tambourine player, and pacifist — as he searches for a lock that matches a mysterious key left behind by his father, who died in the 9/11 attack. That story is intertwined with the story of his grandparents, whose lives are blighted by the firebombing of Dresden.
Foer’s first two novels are less about story, and more about his brilliant use of language (and he is a hell of a novelist) so this is going to be a difficult book to adapt successfully. I was moved by Extremely Loud, but I don’t remember much about the story, to be honest. But if there’s anyone who can wrangle a good movie out of a novel, it’s Stephen Daldry, who has signed on to direct Extremely Loud. Daldry gave us one of the best coming of age movies of the last decade, in Billy Elliot, before moving on to the Oscar nominated The Hours and The Reader. I hope he takes a more buoyant approach to Extremely Close.
Eric Roth is penning the screenplay. Roth is a decent screenwriter (Munich, The Good Shepard, Ali, but he needs a director who can reign him in, lest you get Forrest Gump or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I wouldn’t bet my life on this movie behind made, either: Scott Rudin, who is producing, has basically secured the rights to every decent piece of literature to come out in the last decade, and a lot of them fall by the wayside after he realizes how difficult they are to adapt to the screen (I believe Rudin tried to bring both A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and Me Talk Pretty One Day to the big screen without success.
In related news, Safron Foer is something of a sanctimonious ass (must be a mark of the trade), who recently wrote a book on the food industry that encouraged everyone to give up meat. He had a lot of great conclusions, but was so smug about it, that he reminded me of Bill Hick’s screed about non-smokers: “A bunch of obnoxious self-righteous slugs; I’d quit smoking if I didn’t think I’d become one of you.” I think that was the effect of Foer’s Eating Animals on some: Yeah. He had some great points, but I’d rather die seven years early than be like that patronizing sanctimonious fuck.
In other words: He’s not a very premium person.