I know this movie got pretty mixed reviews and I expect that the Amazon reviews will reflect that. I've never read the book, in fact I'd never heard of the book before Peter Jackson started talking about adapting it to a movie. I didn't have any previous attachment to the source material that some viewers had, although I intend to catch up with them. I can only judge The Lovely Bones as a film, and as a film it is disturbing, sad, funny, and hopeful. Aside from Jackson himself, special mention must go to Saorise Ronan, who carries this whole thing despite a stellar cast of big names. Without Ronan as Susie Salmon, I don't think this movie would be what it is.
In case you don't know, Susie Salmon is your ordinary 14 year old girl in the year 1973. She loves taking pictures and she has a crush on Ray, an English boy from her school. She has a mom, a dad, a grandmother, a brother and a sister and their lives are completely normal, until Susie fails to come home from school one day.
It is every parents' nightmare and one that we see far too often in the news today. Susie's murder eerily echoes cases that we are all familiar with now, but weren't as well known when Jackson started this production. I wonder how much that has to do with the mixed reception and poor box office.
Jackson's direction is a mixed bag. It is at times heavy handed (red curtains, hmm, do you think that symbolizes anything?), and at times subtle and sublime. Jackson uses certain visual clues effectively (usually quickly and subliminally), and his scenery cannot be beaten. One can't help but notice the subtle colour changes when Susie ventures forth into that corn field, as if nature itself was warning her away. Of course, Jackson gets stellar performances from his cast, most impressive of which was Susan Sarandon as grandma. I've always thought Susan Sarandon was awesome and here she is the light within the shade. Mark Wahlberg is passable as the grieving, obsessed father. Rachel Weisz portrays the mother's grief in a completely different way, and is also quite excellent. One of my favourite Sopranos cast members, Michael Imperioli, shines as Detective Len Fenerman, but it is the unrecognizable Stanley Tucci who runs away with this movie. I can't describe what Tucci brings to the table as the neighbor, Mr. Harvey, except to say that it is the work of a total pro. Word has it that Tucci had to take long hot showers at the end of his work day just to wash away the vestiges of the character he was playing.
The film really takes off when Susie Salmon finds herself in the "in-between". It's not the real Earth which she can never return to, and it's not Heaven, but a place that is a little bit of both. As such it is a fantastical place, like any Heaven you have imagined, but not quite, and with reflections from the real world. And Susie doesn't intend to continue her journey into Heaven until she's taken care of some unfinished business. Ronan's narraration is the structure that holds the film together, and she does it really well.
One criticism that a few viewers had was Jackson's use of CG imagery in the in-between. Some felt it was a bit heavy-handed and didn't convey the wonder that it should. I would argue that this is a matter of taste. You may like it and you may not. For the most part, I found Jackson's in-between fascinating. It wasn't perfect, but I don't know what I would have done differently.
DVD special features include: Nothing! Nada! Zip! Go for Blu-Ray for that.
One thing I'm not sure about is the PG-13 rating. While there's nothing overly graphic in The Lovely Bones, parents should excersize caution. This movie has disturbing subject matter and scenes, and you should be aware of that before watching.
4 stars. Not the masterpiece that people tend to expect from Jackson, but certainly a beautiful piece of art.
Not only did director Peter Jackson won an armful of Oscars (3)for his Lord of the Rings movies, he also directed the recent remake of King Kong. Lovely Bones features Oscar winning actresses, Rachel Weisz, and Susan Sarandon. Lead actress, Saoirse Ronan won a nomination for her supporting role in Atonement.
When a creepy neighbor kills a 14 year old girl, she gets caught in the in between world between heaven and earth. One wonders if the killer will be brought to justice, or will he continue his behavior unabated, and who might be next, and what will finally release her from her bonds to earth.
As you watch, Lovely Bones explore themes of spirituality, forgiveness and justice. If you're wondering, it does not go into the gore and violence of her death, and like all such stories, if you care to look beyond the surface, and go deeper it has a cautionary tale to tell. It might be instructive for a teenage girl, who, maybe is unsuspecting, to watch a movie like this, and for her parent to make a point of watching it. It's good to know that while such things do happen, they are not common occurences.
In this movie, Peter Jackson creates a symbolic world of subconscious imagination and imagery, like snippets from a dream, so our girl lives in the in between, partly the creation of her own imagination, and partly the creation of her grieving father, with whom she has a close connection. So, while there is no direct communication by word, there is recurring symbolic communication, and you can notice many things.
You can notice, corn on the table, a cornfield, just planted and mature and inviting, a love letter that flutters through the breeze, and lands in different hands, a safe where remains can be kept, a trophy taken from a girl, and will the killer accidentally get caught with it. You can notice lighthouses, the same tree, roses blooming and decadent, figurines, a safe, a sink hole, a street map that looks like a Film Four logo. Hmm. Lighthouse Entertainment. Hmm.
There are even parallels between the girl's father and killer. Both like to make small intricate models, and this becomes interesting when the ships appear. Ships in a bottle, cool. Dolls houses creepy.
I particularly liked the performance of Mark Wahlberg, who emotes without overstating. Stanley Tucci, goes against his usual type, and gives a perfectly creepy performance as the killer gaining an Oscar nomination. I found Rachel Weisz performance odd but very intriguing, somewhat under emotive or under acted. I found the alternative world interesting, reminiscent of What Dreams May Come, which was more visually compelling, although a very heavy movie.
One thing that did not make sense was the safe. This hugely heavy box, he is able to put in an underground structure, put the bones in, yet is unable to move the safe by himself, so how does he get it to his house, how does he get it out of his basement and into his car, yet he needs help moving it a few yards to a sink hole.
I liked this movie a lot, although it was a bit long, and there was too much narrating by the girl. Part of the fun of watching a movie is your own imaginary experience, and a lighter touch on the narration would have worked much better. I think most people will enjoy it even though it's a little unusual, and I hope this was helpful.
on September 20, 2011
I read Alice Sebold's book a couple of years ago - twice actually; I really like her writing style. In any event, I was given the DVD some time ago but hadn't watched it. I confess I was influenced by some slightly negative reviews (both in print and by friends)so I didn't make a point of "getting around to it". So, today, I watched the movie, almost expecting to be disappointed, but I have to say that I loved it. Yes, it's only a "treatment" of the book and quite a few things have been left out. However, I don't think that the basic story has suffered much and, if one had NOT read the book..... The entire cast of the movie really "did it" for me. Saoirse Ronan was perfection - what a gem! As for Stanley Tucci - I would not have recognized him. He absolutely nailed that character. Of course, he nails EVERY character he portrays, but this was a real tour de force. Mark Wahlberg showed a sensitivity that surprised me - hadn't seen that from him before. Hadn't seen Rachel Weisz in anything else but I thought she was just fine in the part. Susan Sarandon, of course, is always brilliant. In "Lovely Bones" she plays a bit outside her usual type BUT she certainly pulled it off - no surprise really. I also thought the CGI work was excellent and not remotely overdone. Of course, I've no idea what the hereafter looks like and I'm pretty sure nobody else does either - but Peter Jackson's imaging cohorts certainly made it look inviting!! I confess that I would like to have seen more of the Ruth character, also Ray - but then we would have ended up with a four-hour movie I guess. All in all, very well done. Five * from me!