Sunday, January 17, 2010


“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...


Anonymous said...

Rachel Weisz's role was cut dramatically from the film, so if you're going to blame someone, blame Peter Jackson for editing her part out. In fact blame Jackson for the whole film being as bad as it was.

dbm said...

I own the book and there is just something about books being adapted to movies, where almost 90%of the time, the film does not match up to the book and this is one of those. John Hillcoat did a pretty good job with with The Road, but The Lovely Bones is near impossible to make. The reason being, the book is series and series of " implied " moments, where your imagination is supposed to create scenes for yourself. How do you put on screen what someone is thinking to themself ?
It's a difficult book to adapt and I gave Jackson an B for effort.
I don't think it was bad like anonymous thinks. Might have been even worse in the hands of a lesser talented director and storyteller than Jackson.
I do think Saoirse Ronan ( pronounced Shur-shee ) has a great career ahead of her. She's a natural. I hear that her plans are to attend college and resume acting afterwards, so maybe she'll be the next Jodie Foster in that regard, where she gets to grow up in college and make a comeback.
I also think the marketing behind the movie blew it by showing Tucci in the trailer. That totally gives it away. It may have been more tense to people that weren't aware of the book had they left him out of the trailer.
I give it a pass, only for being that the book is incredibley hard to put to screen. It's like making Stephen King's It. I loved that book, and I always felt there was no way they could make a faithful version of it because there are way too many behind the scenes and implied things going on. And once Hollywood decided to make it into a TV movie it was a jumbled, laughable mess and wasn't faithfull to the book ( like most King books to movies )
Jackson got it more right than not.

movie luva said...

I thought the film was fine. I did not read the book though.

Terry R said...

Books are better than movies. That's something everyone agrees upon. You spend days, sometimes weeks with a book. You get to 'hear' what characters are thinking, you get a much more in depth look into their make-up & a much mopre detailed description of whythey do what they do (With a few exceptions where the author cleverly decides to leave it up to the reader) You spend 90 minutes to 2 hours with a movie & all those little details either have to be dismissed or crammed into a few lines of dialogue. Sub-plots are erased... Does anyone remember that Richard Dreyfuss' Hooper in 'Jaws' was supposed to have an affair with Chief Brodie's wife?
Or that Hooper was also eaten by the shark in the book? Did eliminating those elements lessen the entertainment value of the film? It did at first for me, buit I got over it when I realized the core of the story were the 3 men on the boat. So a good adaption cuts away the crust & leaves the meat of the sandwich intact.
The question now becomes, why adapt a book that (as dbm puts it) 'near impossible'?
My problem with the film was the glorification of death - here's a story where a horrific fate befalls an innocent 14 year old girl & the director turns her afterlife into a teenager's dream world... What was the point of doing that? Why take a gritty plot & make it user friendly?
To me, Jackson wussed out big time.
As to the comment that Tucci should have been left out of the trailer, I couldn't disagree more, because THAT is the reason my interest was peaked. Knowing Tucci's Mr. Harvey was the killer did not detract from his performance or the creepiness of his character for me. & I did not like the lame ending when Mr. Harvey meets his end. I shook my head & thought, "No, no, no, that's not how a monster is supposed to go out!"