Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lack of Lovely Photos Blamed On Poor Bone Structure

The Lovely Bones

Based on Alice Sebold’s novel, The Lovely Bones is the story of 14 year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) who is murdered one day while walking home from school. Trapped in the world between heaven and earth, Susie watches as her parents (Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz) struggle to cope with her death while killer roams free. Despite Susie’s desire to have her killer brought to justice, she must decide whether it is worth ruining her family in the process.

Despite a few moments of flourish here and there I found The Lovely Bones to be a huge disappointment overall. I admit that my expectations may have been raised too high by the level of talent involved in the production. Still it is tough not to get excited when you look at all the cast and director on paper. Yet the mix of talent never quiet gels the way you would hope. As a result The Lovely Bones feels more like a made for television picture than it does a feature film.

I really hate to come down on Peter Jackson as Heavenly Creatures is still one of my all-time favorite movies. Yet it is Jackson’s direction that ultimately hurts The Lovely Bones. After films like the aforementioned Creatures, The Frighteners, and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, I would have thought that Peter Jackson would be the logical choice to tackle a drama with fantastical elements such as this. Surprising though, it is the fantastical aspects, usually Jackson’s forte, which hinders the film the most.

Peter Jackson never seems to settle on what type of story he wants to tell. This causes the film to flow in a continuous start and stop pace. Jackson gets so caught up in the “middle world” scenes that he often leaves other characters hanging in the wind. To make up for this, he seems to abruptly throw in scenes just so he can check them off the list of points, which I assume are, from the novel. For example, the arrival of Susan Sarandon’s character leads the film into a “crazy Grandma Lynn tangent” that does nothing to really further the plot. The film practically resembles a sitcom at this point. Sure it adds a brief comedic moment but what does it achieve in the greater picture as a whole? I am sure that Grandma Lynn was fleshed out more in the book but in the film she is rather one-dimensional character.

Actually, with the exception of Stanley Tucci’s George Harvey, every character is rather stagnant. This is very apparent in Wahlberg and Weisz’ stunted story arc. Jackson never really provides us with much insight into their union. So when their relationship is tested it comes off very hollow. If you look at films such as In the Bedroom, you are drawn into the parent’s grief because you fully understand how they worked as a couple in happier times.

Similar to the parent’s arc, I would have preferred greater insight into Lindsay Solmon (Rose McIver) as well. Her involvement in the second half of the film felt somewhat tacked on last minute. She is pretty much non-existent for a good portion of the film, then she is becomes the heroic character all of a sudden. A little more background would have increased the tension in her scenes with George Harvey.

Speaking of George Harvey, this was the one aspect that I thought Jackson nailed perfectly. Stanley Tucci brought an interesting interpretation to the role. He was always calculating but never overly creepy. I found myself being more interested in figuring out what made George Harvey tick rather than what Susie Salmon was doing in the “world between worlds”. Tucci was the only thing truly lovely bone in the body of this uneven film.


  1. I still think Ms. Ronan's performance was incredibly moving...it easily trumps nine of the ten Oscar nominated women at the Oscars for me.
    But I do like The Lovely Bones more than most...

  2. @Andrew - Wow, you must really have loved the film. I don't know if I could go that far regarding Ms. Ronan's performance. Though I am glad you at least got more out of the film than I did.

  3. Then again, over-direction is my bread and butter. Saoirse Ronan was pretty good, I think.

    Excellent review, then.

  4. I liked Tucci and the film more than the average viewer and I agree that Ronan was magnificent.
    She's the best teenage actress working nowadays.

  5. @Simon - Thanks. Though I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on good vs. bad over-direction. Could make for a great blog post.

    @Jose - I agree Ronan is one of the better teen actresses out there. Yet Tucci is the person I will remember the most from this picture.


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