The book The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold sat on the New York Times Bestsellers List for over a year and sold over a million copies, so there's a good chance you might have read the book. I did not. I imagine that the book is filled with such amazing imagery that you don't want to put it down. I've been told that it's a "page-turner" that's filled with excitement. Sadly, the movie is primarily far from that. The movie The Lovely Bones is directed by the very talented and Oscar winning Peter Jackson who gave us The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The movie is about a girl guiding her family through pain and justice as she helps them find her killer from beyond the grave after she is murdered. It stars Saoirse Ronan (Atonement), Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz and the amazing Stanley Tucci. So if you're keeping score at home, you've got a very popular book that many people loved, an amazing director and a stellar cast; but if DaVinci Code/Angels & Demons taught us anything, it's that that doesn't guarantee anything. There are scenes of this 135-minute-long movie that seem like 135 minutes themselves. "The In-Between," which is the not-quite-heaven world that Susie spends most of the movie in, moves at a pace that is shockingly slow. Sure the FX are pretty and fun to watch, but that gets old really fast and eventually the scenes that are meant to be mysterious and emotional just turn into parts of the story that get in the way. Nothing interesting happens in them and because the dialogue in those scenes is stilted and awkward, nothing interesting is said either. It's a real shame that that occupies most of the movie since the premise of a serial killer living in suburban Pennsylvania (on a street that looks JUST like where I grew up) and a family dealing with the loss while searching for justice is REALLY compelling. Stanley Tucci plays George Harvey who is said serial killer and it might be one of his greatest performances. After watching him confess his love to Julia Child in Julie & Julia, it's shocking to watch him play the polar opposite of that. He's nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in this and I think he may get an Oscar nomination for it too. It's one of two things that keeps this movie interesting, the other being Peter Jackson's direction. It's odd to watch anything that Jackson does that's not Lord of the Rings because he uses the same techniques in everything. In The Lovely Bones he may have made one of the scariest scenes shot this year as we cling to every painful second of a serial killer seducing a 14-year-old girl before killing and raping her (it's not done graphically). Tucci and Jackson crafted scenes like that one so well that you can actually feel your temperature and pulse rise with every syllable spoken. Sadly, those moments aren't enough to carry the film which turns out to be too long, too clunky and too slow; and made me feel like it should've stayed on the pages and in the imaginations of the millions that read it. What should've been budding with emotion, turned out to be budding with nothing.
The Lovely Bones (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: C+
The Lovely Bones Movie Review
Windy has been a busy girl this week. I don't know when she finds the time to write reviews for my site and work on her own .
We are so glad she is a part of the SandwichJohnFilms team.
“The Lovely Bones”, based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Alice Sebold and directed by Peter Jackson, is the story about a family dealing with the crisis of their murdered 14-year old daughter, Susie Salmon, and her father’s hunt for her killer. Most of the story is told from Susie’s point of view after her murder, as she watches her family struggle to cope with her loss and search for her killer. She is stuck in what her younger brother refers to as “the in-between” – a place between Earth and heaven – because she refuses to let go of her family or her killer.
Susie, played by Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement”) gives a moving portrayal of a spirit running a gamut of emotions, starting with confusion, moving to fear, and ultimately release. In particular, her level of fear demonstrated through the strength of her screams (amplified with sound editing) when she realizes she is dead is real enough to send chills down your spine. Throughout the film, you feel what she feels and you, too, want her family to move on and her killer brought to justice just as much as she does.
Mark Wahlberg plays Jack Salmon, Susie’s father, who refuses to give up the search for her murderer. Wahlberg’s emotions are palpable throughout the film. You see sadness and desperation exuding from his eyes. He is one of the standouts among the cast. He develops chemistry with each character in the film, even strangers he approaches on the street to ask about his missing daughter.
Abigail Salmon, played by Rachel Weisz, leaves something to be desired from a motherly perspective. It’s not until Susie’s death that we really see her character break through. Up until that point, Weisz is unconvincing as Susie’s family-oriented, devoted mother. Unfortunately, as soon as she breaks through, she’s left with little screen time to let the character fully develop.
Something must be said about Susan Sarandon’s portrayal of Susie’s grandmother. Sarandon effectively portrays the light-sided character, bringing both laughs and a reality check to the family and the audience. She represents the “life” in the film. She is as vibrant as she is clueless about housecleaning. Each scene with Sarandon is truly enjoyable to watch.
George Harvey (the murderer), played by Stanley Tucci, is executed flawlessly. Tucci’s portrayal of a murdering pedophile is spot on, each scene more disturbing than the last. Even with slight groans or deep breaths, Tucci brings sheer disgust to his character portrayal. One might be so disturbed that you may shy away from him should you meet him in real life.
The film itself is colorful and full of life, despite the movie being about death and healing. Jackson accurately portrays the “in-between” with CGI. However, some of the “in-between” scenes are over-the-top and unnecessary. The superfluous scenes detract from the seriousness of the subject matter. These scenes also extend the movie beyond the length needed to effectively tell the story. The best use of CGI is when it is used to show Susie in the “in-between” and on Earth at the same time. The two worlds combine effortlessly and you get a true sense that Susie is with her family or her murderer, depending on the scene.
With fewer blatant and unnecessary CGI scenes and a more convincing Weisz performance, the film would have faired much better.
SPOILER ALERT Fun note: For people who have read the book and remember the ending in detail, watch for several scenes of foreshadowing throughout the film.
6 ½ sandwiches out of 10.