It’s nice to see Peter Jackson going back to his roots, in a way, and directing a film that’s closer to Heavenly Creatures than to his recent big budget extravaganzas (awesome as they are — except King Kong, let’s just sweep that one under the rug shall we?). The Lovely Bones, like Heavenly Creatures, is an intimate story that centers around teenage girls – in this case a pre-teen who is brutally murdered by a neighbor and gets trapped in “the in between” as she tries to help her grieving family solve the crime. Fans of the book are eagerly waiting to see what Jackson has done with Alice Seybold’s story, and, I have to admit, I think they may be a little disappointed.
It’s not that the film isn’t thrilling at times (Stanley Tucci is especially creepy and his scenes definitely inspire some white-knuckling), it’s just that it feels like the director now has access to so much money, and so many fancy toys and FX, that the essence of the story and characters took a backseat to the pretty pictures. The performances are all fine, except for a very campy Susan Sarandon playing the whisky-swilling, cigarette-wielding grandma who feels like she’s in a different movie than the rest of cast. Saoirse Ronan, as lead character Susie Salmon, proves that her Oscar nom (at the wizened age of 13) for Atonement wasn’t just a fluke — she’s scary talented, like a young Cate Blanchet, and her presence lends the film an ethereal quality that’s pretty mesmerizing. All in all Lovely Bones has its moments and is worth a look for sure, but it’s certainly not a great film. I would spend my money on a stunning adaptation like The Road, and then sneak into Lovely Bones just to get a taste. The difference is that Lovely Bones is an example of a talented director taking a great story and watering down its power with the visual equivalent of purple prose, and The Road, another adaptation, is an example of a director who respects the story and characters he’s been given, and who tells his tale quietly — which makes it all the more powerful.
by Dina Gachman
The Lovely Bones will be released worldwide this Friday, December 11, and stars Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Saoirse Ronan, Michael Imperioli and Stanley Tucci. A brief behind-the-scenes video after the Jump…