The Lovely Bones

After my run-in I went and bought some necessities like milk and bread then went back to work to watch The Lovely Bones, which has been high on my most-anticipated-films-of-the-year list for a while.  I still had a bit of time to kill before the session so I sat in the staffroom and drank a Frank Sparkling Tangy Blood Orange drink (seriously you need to try it—its awesome) and unwound a bit.

Finally I went upstairs to the cinema and sat down in my seat in the third row (I like being up close and personal in the cinema, getting involved with the film and all that).  By the time the ads and trailers had played I was feeling nice and settled again.

So my verdict.

I’ll start with the book.  I read it a few years ago and really enjoyed it.  It was different, and an interesting story.  I would recommend it if I thought you hadn’t already read it.  Basically its about a young girl who is raped and murdered by a man who lives on her street and she narrates the story of what happens to her family and her killer afterward from the afterlife.  Its a bit more complex than that, obviously, but that is it in a nutshell.

And the movie.  Overall it felt like a mixed bag.  The casting is a little bit hit-and-miss.  Saoirse Ronan is fantastic as Susie Salmon, the lead role.  She carries the picture.  Susan Sarandon is likewise amazing.  The two of them get all the best moments in the film.  Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz not so great.  I didn’t really feel them in the roles.  They didn’t inhabit them or something.  And Stanley Tucci.  They all do a fine job, but I think that my associations with them from other roles were too great and took away from the experience.  Which is interesting because Susan Sarandon is easily the biggest name in the cast.  New Zealander Rose McIvor was well cast as Susie’s younger sister Lindsey.  The kid who plays the little brother was cute but not a fantastic actor, and by the end of the film his character had inexplicably disappeared.  The art-direction was spot-on, but some of the photography was less than great, and somewhat distracting at that.  There were some shots that looked like lo-fi digi-footage or video even, while a lot of the rest of it looked pretty nice.  The offending shots were there for added drama or tension or something but didn’t add anything to the film in my opinion and would have served it better if they had simply been cut.  Also the narrative arc and tone of the film was very jumpy.  Some sequences were phenomenal (particularly when they furthered the story), but the tone they created was quickly distracted by trips off into Susie’s afterlife world.  In the book it works.  Here, not so much.  I didn’t think much of the whole visual design of Susie’s world.  It looked too obviously manipulated.  I don’t mind CGI, I just think it should look and feel more real.  Its hard to explain exactly what I mean, but I’ve said it before, I just didn’t buy into it.  Saoirse felt real; everything else felt like nothing.  The music/score, while fine most of the time, for Susie’s world it felt really new-age-y and just not right appropriate for the source material.  And the resolution.  It was a pivotal moment in the book but here it was just rushed over and not even explained at all.  I have no problem with a director taking a book and making it his own (see Spike Jonze), but you have to stay true to the heart of the source.

Overall I felt like this was a disappointment from Peter Jackson.  After career high-points like Heavenly Creatures (which this has been likened to), Lord of the Rings and King Kong, this fell a little too flat.

It is all just my own opinion though, of course.

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