A Great Big Beautiful Mess: THE LOVELY BONES

Peter Jackson's adaption of The Lovely Bones, could have been a gut wrenching film that people might have talked about for years (considering that its source material is a terrific novel), but if you read the book, you might have thought that transferring this story to film would have been a difficult endeavor; and you would be right in that assertation.

Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is a bright eyed adolescent who lives with her loving family in a suburb of Philadelphia.  One afternoon, she is lured away by her nebbish neighbor, Mr. Harvey (Stanley Tucci), who kills her and hides her body.  Susie's spirit, however, stays trapped between this world and the next, and as such she spends time watching her family mourn and deal with their loss, as well as keeping an otherworldly eye on her killer.  While this premise works well in the novel, it does not satisfy on the screen.

Clearly, Jackson can't seem to make up his mind concerning the story he wants to tell.  Is this a revenge tale?  A ghost story?  A meditation on life after death?  Or maybe it's a comedy (and that might explain Susan Sarandon's over the top performance as Susie's boozing, chain smoking grandmother - what movie was she supposed to be in?) .

In spite of all of this, there are some downright gorgeous moments in the film - I was especially mesmerized by Susie's personal heaven.  Of course, considering that Jackson works so well in the fantasy genre, that was expected.

Most of the performances are pretty good, Tucci is perfect as the namby-pamby monster next door, Mark Wahlberg is (surprisingly) decent as the grieving, revenge obsessed father, and Rachel Weisz brings a quiet sense of longing to her role as the mother.  However, it is Ronan who owns this film, she is one fantastic young actress and manages to do that rare thing by bringing believability to a role that would be tough for most to tackle.

Despite the good acting, and the stunning visuals, The Lovely Bones really never catches fire, and that's too bad.  I would highly recommend that if you have not already, pick up a copy of the novel first, and then compare it to the film.  Like the heroine of this tale, they are worlds apart.


Christine Hadden said...

I just watched this one last night, and feel you've hit the nail on the head with your review. The film was so...disjointed in parts. Like many movies all desperately trying to come together but not really succeeding. Thank heavens for the fabulous acting of Ronan in particular. She's absolutely Oscar bound at some point in her career.
And Tucci - just endlessly creepy here.

Pax Romano said...

C.L., Tucci is so unappreciated as an actor - the man deserves the kind of accolades Streep gets. And as for Ronan, provided she does not fall into the "child star trap", I think you are right, an Oscar is in her future.

I Like Horror Movies said...

I was underwhelmed by the trailer, but I have heard the novel was fantastic so I am still quasi-interested. Netflix, anyone?

Chris H said...

I forever debated seeing this when it was in theaters, but skipped it. I think Peter Jackson spent all his focus dollars on LOTR and since seems to have lost his footing.