I finally saw The Lovely Bones, the Peter Jackson film that was meant to come out in December of 2009, but was pushed to January 2010 instead. I understand why now. No one would ever imagine that PJ could be capable of such a lack-jaw job, adapting a beloved novel into a visual, but empty mess. This film strikes a low blow as his worst film to date, but it's not all that bad.
Susie Salmon is a youthful 14 year old with aspirations to become a photographer, just landed a date with her long-time crush, and has the best, most loving family that any child could ask for. Or it was - everything changed when a pathological pre-teen stalker had to act on his obsession - her! Susie, murdered at the hand of her unsuspected neighbor, is now caught between earth and heaven (The In-Between), her killer on the loose, and her family scarred as her father develops his own obsession: find Susie's killer and bring him to justice. Will Susie find solace in her fate, or will she wander aimlessly until the space between earth and heaven are forever blurred.
What began as a good story with a great ensemble of actors turned out to be exactly what this film is all about - a lifeless entity. From the overexposure of potentially suspenseful moments to strobe-light-like editing that doesn't help at all during the tense portions where it's shown, The Lovely Bones is an emotional and visual wonder, but the emotions are hollow and the visuals are cryptically empty. Ultimately, the film leaves you unfulfilled and unsatisfied.
Score/Visuals - an abstract wonderland. From cornfields that turn into seas, giant bottled ships crashing against cliffs, and a blossoming rose beneath a frozen lake are but a fraction of imagines that would make Salvador Dali envious. And the score by Leo Abrahams and Brian Eno enamors, thrills, and chills you, as best as an accompaniment to a ghost story can.
Acting - surprisingly good - this is the first film starring Mark Wahlberg that I actually liked him in, besides The Italian Job. Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon are favorites of mine and they excel here. And the young actress, Saoirse Ronan, is beginning to grow on me as a lovely talent. And to top it off - Stanley Tucci - the leering psycho who succeeds at giving us the skeevies!
Jackson Cameo - a subtle moment in a photo store where Jackson is holding a camera to conceal his face. However, his girth and beard give him away :P
Story - easy to follow, not confusing, but erratically told and lacking in a sense of disbelief. Everything began so well and had me hooked, but the events that followed, the passing of the years, made me care less about Susie's soul. On top of that, the story had one too many "WHAAAT!?" moments, especially at the end. ::SPOILERS:: For example, the trinket that Mr. Harvey took off Susie's bracelet. A lot of focus was placed on it, but the object had no resolve to the plot, making it a senseless prop. Also, would it have severed better to keep the killer a secret, adding a mystery element to the film instead of showcasing more than is needed, like an old-school Bond film? The dad is beaten to a pulp, mistaken for an abductor in the night by a teenage boy, and yet his face doesn't have so much as a bruise to show for it. If you happen to find a notebook containing detailed drawings of your sister's murder scene and marked routes leading to your house, would you really need to flip through the whole book to know that's evidence enough that Mr. Harvey is her killer? After falling off a roof, getting the wind knocked out of you, and getting chased by your sister's killer, wouldn't you be panicked, crying, and out of breath? No. Allowing Mom and Dad to have a sweet reunion moment is more important than stopping the killer, who just so happens to be running away! And finally, Susie, possessing the "weird" girl so she can have the kiss that she never had, and the guy can tell it's Susie? This makes Ghost look like a stroke of genius! And while this kissing takes place, Mr. Harvey dumps her safe-enclosed remains into a sinkhole. At that point in the story, I thought to myself, "this film sure is the pits!" I almost forgot one more irk in my hurt - Harvey's "accidental" death - where's the justice? That was the Cheesiest resolution to an antagonist since The Lady in White.
Directing - I hate to say it, but Jackson's style doesn't help here. I love how he follows characters and raises the view from ground level to aerial shots, but the pacing of this story is flawed, the transitions overdone, and the layout sloppy. The visual aspect is great, but the story can't hold it.
What Dreams May Come - anyone seen this film? This and that one are practically the same deal, only The Lovely Bones deals with murder rather than just death. Did that garish film inspire the novel? I wonder . . .
On a psychological note, this film captures a fairly accurate picture of deviant behavior and may serve well to encourage (or scare) young girls from going into strange places with strange men. Or, in the least, show the importance of not taking secluded shortcuts alone. There is nothing lovely about The Lovely Bones, or how it has anything to do with a film that touches upon the sensitive subject of losing a child and never seeing them again, dead or alive. Vanished from the face of the earth, it handles the topic in a jarring manner, encouraging us to forget about our woes and move on. Good advice. I will move on with my life and forget that I saw this movie.