“The LOVELY BONES” (Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci & Susan Sarandon)
There are elements to this film that I liked & some that I did not like. It had the potential of being an excellent movie & it seemed to me that director Peter Jackson ruined that opportunity by taking a very serious subject matter & making it a paean to religious beliefs (Which is going to lose me every time)
Two of the biggest pluses are also wasted (a bit) – Stanley Tucci’s George Harvey & Susan Sarandon’s ‘grandma’ provide the creepiest & most lighted hearted moments (respectively) Maybe Sarandon’s grandma is used just enough, but the film needed more Tucci; instead of having his latest victim, Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) ‘telling’ us the list of young women/girls that Mr. Harvey murdered, it would have been much more powerful to show short clips of how each met their demise at the hands of the serial killer. Instead of focusing on the horror of being murdered at the age of 14, Jackson decided to paint a ‘pretty’ picture of death by showing the corpse/soul of young Susie frolicking in the afterlife by pretending to be a famous fashion model.
But let’s get to the basic storyline, which is one of the good elements; though it initially made me turn away from this project – a 14 year old girl is raped & murdered by a neighbor & her ghost comes back to try to lead her family to the killer, yet at the same time the ghost is ‘haunted’ by the fact that her killer appears to be getting away ‘scot’ free. It was a bit too gruesome of a plot for me, but it only took a short clip of seeing Stanley Tucci as the ‘ultimate’ creepy neighbor to peak my interest.
If you’re squeamish about that plot, don’t worry, there are no scenes of actual violence toward young women in the film – Only Susie’s dad (Mark Wahlberg) is a victim of onscreen violence.
Susie’s younger sister, Lindsey (Rose McIver) has an encounter with Mr. Harvey that leads her to eye the man with suspicion & the film becomes an intense thriller when Lindsey breaks into Harvey’s home to try & find some evidence against him.
Will they ever catch Mr. Harvey? Or will he continue his murderous spree - & will his next victim be ‘the other Salmon girl’?
Stanley Tucci is the stand out & should garner an Oscar nomination (It would be a travesty if he didn’t)
Susan Sarandon should also get consideration for her role as the grandmother that doesn’t want to be thought of as a grandmother (Her caked on makeup & dyed hair give away her desire to try & remain looking younger than her actual age) Grandma provided the necessary comic relief to keep this film from becoming too dramatic.
Mediocre performances by Mark Wahlberg & Rachel Weisz as Susie’s parents, Jack & Abigail, neither add nor subtract from the quality of the movie; with Wahlberg it’s expected, but I’ve come to expect more from Rachel. Michael Imperioli (of ‘Sopranos’ fame) also delivers a rather bland performance as the police detective in charge of the case.
So there’s the good & the mediocre, here’s the ugly...
Susie being trapped in the ‘In Between’ is a major distraction – trying waaay too hard to be visually stunning, Susie’s afterlife feeds into the lie that being dead is more fun than being alive. If this were actually true, those of you who believe in heaven, then why is every religious person so afraid of death? When Susie decides it is time for her to leave her paradise & make the final trek to heaven, she isn’t met by family members/pets/loved ones that had passed before her, but by Harvey’s previous victims. This is what heaven is... a support group?
It seemed the only thing missing from Susie’s short life was receiving her first kiss, so in a totally lame ‘transference’ scene, Jackson allows that to happen. I’m sure he was thinking gullible audiences would ‘awww’ at the scene, but it was so far fetched & stupid, I blew a raspberry. It reminded of those old commercials where the daughter’s boyfriend mistakes her mother for her (“Mrs. Johnson??? I though you were Dale!”) except the boyfriend here doesn’t even bat an eye when his current girlfriend magically turns into a living dead girl. How does one think that something that dumb is going to work with an intelligent audience? (I say that because this is a character driven movie with no axe murderers, car chases, martial arts, or scenes involving Vin Deisel)
The violence is downplayed too much so it loses its power & the afterlife is so wondrous & surreal that we should all turn into suicide bombers so we can get there quicker!
That said, I still give ‘The Lovely Bones’ a passing grade basically due to Tucci – both he & his ‘safe’ sent shivers up my spine...