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The Lovely Bones
The Lovely Bones (DVD)
Member Name: goldenbat666
The Lovely Bones (DVD)
Advantages: The flawless performances
Disadvantages: Everything else - the plot, the overused visual effects, creepy premise, too much voiceover work
Murder and rape are horrible, vile and disgusting acts. But it's even more disturbing to see that director Peter Jackson doesn't seem to agree. It's cruel not only to the victims but also to those around them. They are the ones who often have to deal with the aftermath of the attack; how do you handle losing someone you loved so deeply? This is exactly what Jackson's latest effort "The Lovely Bones" tries to convey. What the drastic impact on a family can be after an unimaginably violent attack. The audience sees the narrative from various perspectives; the victim's, the family's, and the attacker's.
So far, so good since to be fair, it's an intriguing premise - it also gives the audience a clear sense of what's going on deep down everyone's masked, hidden expressions. What was the killer thinking? How does the abused girl feel? Can her parents move on? What do her brother and sister feel about her being permanently gone? Jackson touches on these points lightly and is shockingly quick to move past them. It appears he's more interested in the visual style of the film as a whole. The parents are sad, there are tears, the girl is scared and confused, she screams a bit, and the killer is overall quite satisfied and pleased with himself, he smiles quietly and looks the other way.
Jackson's message isn't entirely clear: Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is a bright young girl (aged fourteen to be exact) who is murdered by her creepy neighbour George Harvey (Stanley Tucci). Her parents Jack (Mark Wahlberg) and Abigail (Rachel Weisz) are of course devastated as are her active sister Lindsey (Rose McIver) and her brother Buckley (Christian Thomas Ashdale). There is a seemingly useless cop Len Fenerman (Michael Imperioli) who tries to put the pieces together. As he shows signs of giving up, Jack, the determined father that he is, is more than determined to take matters into his own hands. Abigail is having a hard time coping so her mother Lynn (Susan Sarandon) offers to lend a helping hand. All of this is witnessed by Susie, who seems to be caught in between heaven and earth, a place conveniently titled the in-between. Apparently it's the perfect place she's dreamt of, her "own perfect world."
This is exactly where the film starts filling its running time with some uncomfortable imagery. Is the film trying to tell us that if you've been brutally raped and murdered, you should feel hopeful because you'll end up in a fantasy world where you hang out with all the other young, innocent victims? You dance on fields with absolutely no worry, you have a major makeover especially in the costume department, there are pretty flowers and trees, mystical looking oceans, mountains that are all filled with wonderful colours. You have no worries here, no parents to control you, no school, no homework, you never get sick, you don't have to eat vegetables, (pretty sure you don't have to eat anything to survive) etc, so it appears this seems to be a better life. So did the killer do this victim a favour? It's a sick thought, but the director encourages this for some reason. A fourteen-year-old dying should be a tragedy and nothing else. Having her narrate like there's absolutely nothing wrong with her "afterlife" is probably scarier than the actual murder itself.
Shifting back and forth between Susie's supernatural world and planet Earth where it's full of grief and other messy emotions, the film fails to focus on a specific group with confidence. There is never really much depth or insight as to what the characters are going through. Yes, the parents are sad, upset and angry. Can we see anything beyond that, please? The film does cover a long period of time, after all. This is something the book would have been able to look at in more detail. When Jackson doesn't quite know where to take the film, he decides to put in a voiceover work, a tiresome, tedious set of dull, not very engaging narration that adds nothing to the plot. It's mostly Susie rambling on about how great everything it is in her little world but at the back of her mind, she knows that her killer is still at large and the darker, harsher reality of what her family is going through is often hard to watch.
That being said, the fantasy world is filled with breathtakingly beautiful special effects, a feature that Jackson seems to be more than confident in, and he decides to go overboard. It's visually spectacular when the images first hit us, but these get old incredibly quickly, surprisingly quickly in fact, that in the end, you want the plot to move on, to give these poor characters some sense of closure, instead of wandering around aimlessly in the nicely decorated fantasy world.
The one flawless factor of the film that Jackson is more than fortunate to have is the ability of the cast. Ronan, with her perfectly mastered American accent, is flawless as the victim, Weisz and Wahlberg do grief well, despite the fact that it becomes increasingly difficult to take Wahlberg seriously given his ridiculous hairstyle that gets worse as time goes by, Sarandon provides some comic relief, albeit a slightly unnecessary one, as the boozy grandmother who is absolutely useless around the house, and the main highlight Tucci is disturbingly spot-on as the nervous but twisted pervert with the hobby of trapping, torturing and eventually, killing young girls.
"Style over substance" is the fitting phrase to describe this crushing disappointment. What should have been a deep, thought-provoking human drama turns into fantasy world nonsense at the hands of the director responsible for "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. A missed opportunity with a fine cast, this is a great example of a bestseller adaptation gone horrendously wrong.
Summary: Too cheerful and stylish for its own good, Jackson ruins the film with his unique flourishes