The Lovely Bones

2010-02-25 09:51
 
The Lovely Bones

What it's about:

Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), a 14-year-old girl from suburban Pennsylvania, has been murdered and watches over her family – and her killer – from heaven. She must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal.

What we thought:


You wouldn’t expect a movie about the murder of a 14-year-old girl to be entertaining. And yet, this one is – as well as draining, frightening, funny, and terribly sad.

Alice Sebold, the writer of the novel on which the movie is based, has a particular talent: She shares with Tolkien the ability to convincingly portray evil in a way that chills your spine, thrills you, scares you, makes you laugh, and moves you to tears over innocence lost. If Sebold got to rewrite the Bible, I might consider going to church… just in case.

The book explores what happens when an ordinary but very special teenage life is interrupted by something as extraordinarily terrible, and yet as mundane, as the rape and murder of the central character, a 14-year-old girl by a serial killer who lives next door.

In the movie as in the novel, the narrator is Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), the teenage victim who can’t bear to let go of the world of the living, just as the world of the living can’t bear to let go of her.

Whether Susie’s world is allegory or reality doesn’t matter in the novel, as the two mostly blend effortlessly while you read. Taking the story to film is a risky business and Peter Jackson might the only living director capable of doing it – his work on The Lord of the Rings showed that he could pull off faithful adaptations of complex interwoven plots. He proves himself again here, with no real changes to the story except for the usual Hollywood upping of Susie’s age from 13 to 14. (This is presumably done to make her sexual assault and murder less shocking for audiences there. What exactly are they thinking: "At least she’s over the legal age of consent in some states" perhaps? )

Still, screenwriters and cinematographers do a great job of bringing 1973 Pennsylvania suburbia alive in a kind of perpetual afternoon light full of promise and innocent romance that makes the portrait of a community’s loss at the story’s centre so much harder to deal with. The fantasy world of Susie’s heavenly limbo - which mirrors her own and her family’s grief-stricken feelings and actions - is lush, intense, dark and detailed. Trippy nightmares morph into beautiful dreams and back again, allowing you to feel Susie’s yearning for a life left incomplete, and share the loneliness she experiences as an onlooker.

Susie’s mother (Rachel Weisz), her father (a convincing performance by Mark Wahlberg) and teenage sister Lindsey (Rose Mclver) deal with Susie’s death in different ways as Susie watches helplessly, hoping that they will discover the truth so that she can have peace. Stanley Tucci is brilliant in his role as the creepy, evil but never one-dimensional paedophile who is at once disgusted by, and addicted to, his uncontrollable perversion.

In the end, the film is a little bit too long, and though it has some genuinely moving and visually stunning moments, it devolves into cutesy My Little Pony sentimentality at crucial moments. Nikki SooHoo’s utterly lame acting is mostly to blame, along with some OTT colourful graphics. Lay off the Disney, and the ABBA, ladies!

But overall The Lovely Bones is worth watching in a cinema, for the power of the visual moments that do work, and because it’s so completely different to anything else on circuit right now. 


Trippy, challenging, funny, frightening, moving and flawed... This must-see movie is a far from perfect adaptation of Alice Sebold’s novel.

Jane 2010/02/19 8:15 AM
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I LIKE my little pony - got the DVDs just the other day... But seriously - I love Peter Jackson - the man is a genius! I will definitely see this movie...though I may wait for the DVD
Cam 2010/02/19 10:32 AM
Seen it - hated it!!
Jean 2010/02/19 12:12 PM
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@jane seriously, if you don't watch it in the cinema, you probably shouldn't bother unless you have a TV the size of your wall. It's mostly about the pictures, this one.
Max 2010/02/19 1:56 PM
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Seen it - Liked it. Not mind blowing, but good
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