The Lovely Bones – Movie Review
- Directed by Peter Jackson
- Starring Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon and Rose McIver
Set in suburban Pennsylvania, 1973, The Lovely Bones tells the story of Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), a 14 year old never-been-kissed girl who’s life ends abruptly at the hands of neighbor George Harvey (a barely recognizable Stanley Tucci). That’s right — she’s dead at the start of the film. What follows is part thriller and part character study of a family traumatised by grief.
The Lovely Bones is interesting in that much of the anticipation surrounding its release centres on the driving force behind the film; Peter Jackson has directed and produced, in addition to co-writing the screenplay. The other core audience for the film would be the millions of people who made Alice Sebold’s 2002 novel of the same name a best seller.
It is likely that both groups are going to walk away disappointed.
And at the risk of making mortal enemies of you Shiters, the blame pretty much rests with Peter Jackson.
His capacity to direct actors is still very much intact – with the exception of Wahlberg as Susie’s bereft father, obsessively keeping the case alive – he’s produced a fine ensemble cast: Sarandon is effortlessly cool and broken as the drinking grandmother, Weisz turns in a great performance as Susie’s mother, who loses not only her eldest daughter, but her understanding of the family and her position in it.
The young cast is impressive, although it is hard to shake the feeling that Saoirse Ronan was cast as much for her resemblance to a young Cate Blanchett as anything else. The true undiscovered talent here is New Zealand actress Rose McIver as Susie’s younger sister Lindsey; overshadowed by her elder sister in life and seemingly forgotten in the aftermath of her death.
Stanley Tucci is immersive in his portrayal of suburban evil AKA George Harvey, a contradiction of soft and hard surfaces, strange impulses and rigid planning… truly chilling.
So where does it all go wrong?
After the epic fantasy and big-screen drama of the LOTR trilogy and King Kong, it is all too easy to imagine that Jackson would be looking for an opportunity to showcase his talent as a film-maker without having to resort to overblown special effects and theatrics; but it’s a scenario that misses the fact that when Jackson is at the helm of an epic, the theatrics and special effects don’t feel overblown. Instead, they’re immersive, drawing the viewer into a story that is fantastic and the visuals are appropriate, if not essential, to telling that story.
The visual style applied to Susie’s after-life is frankly jarring, and no matter how beautiful it may seem, it totally takes the viewer out of the story and fails to deliver the emotional impact of her journey, which veers from vengeance to acceptance.
One feels that Jackson’s attempt to escape his own success – if that’s what it is – has failed to deliver. If he has a counterpart, it is probably Guillermo del Toro, who makes excellent thrillers in his downtime from Hollywood. The difference is that Guillermo has (literally and figuratively) two separate film languages and audiences.
With The Lovely Bones, Jackson’s budget and technical wizardry has essentially dwarfed the content – it’s not unlike hiring Gandalf the White to entertain a children’s party – and yes, we all know that Gandalf the Grey didn’t mind giving it a bash, but this film has him storming the gates with the Riders of Rohan trying to keep up.
Jackson has tried to deliver something with the emotional impact of del Toro’s El Orfanto (The Orphanage) and instead delivered What Dreams May Come.
The Lovely Bones opens Jan 1st. Tell us if you agree with this review and sound off with your opinion of Peter Jackson’s latest film that doesn’t use hobbits.
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