The Lovely Bones
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, and Stanley Tucci
Directed by Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings)
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving disturbing violent content and images, and some language
Appropriate for ages 15+
Based on the best-selling book by Alice Sebold, Bones follows a young girl as she tells her story after she has been brutally murdered by one of her neighbors. She finds herself not in Heaven, but rather in the ‘In Between’ place until she can fully let go of her life on Earth. But she has work to do such as spy on the boy she loves but never got to experience love with, and more importantly – help her family find her murderer.
I found myself very torn by this film. It’s not that the material was too tough considering the talent of the filmmaker, but rather how Jackson handled it. Some things he did I thought were absolutely brilliant, and others I thought were horrible mistakes that were almost laughable.
I’m not so concerned that he varied from the book and toned down the murder quite a bit. After all, had he included the girl being raped and murdered, the tone would have been much darker, and much more difficult to watch. As it stands, the murder is not shown and rape is not even implied and that was probably a good decision. That being said, I’m not sure if the tone was dark enough the way it was made. A PG-13 movie about a girl who was slain just doesn’t sit right with me. It feels too light at times when it should be much heavier.
So where he went right was in his handling of the ethereal quality of the ‘In Between’. It’s a beautiful, eerie place and everything from the spectacular visuals to the enveloping sounds create a world for the audience that is a truly unique theatrical experience. The only film I’ve ever seen that comes close to matching this unique look is the Oscar-winning What Dreams May Come, a spectacular vision of the afterlife.
Acting-wise, Ronan and Tucci both turn in terrific performances as the hunted and the hunter. Before this film I thought Tucci would get his Oscar nod for Julie and Julia, but this role solidifies a nomination, although a win is unlikely with Christoph Waltz in the running. He is the ultimate creepy neighbor and Ronan is the perfect naive girl that falls into the trap. Wahlberg on the other hand was horribly miscast as the dad and his overacting is hard to stomach at times. Weisz delivers a less than desirable performance as well.
There were also a few huge logic flaws of which I can’t get into detail without spoiling the film. Let’s just say that common sense tells you that if you are going to throw something very, very heavy into a pit, you pull the truck up to the pit. You don’t push it end over end over end for thirty feet just so there is time to add an important scene in between. This is moronic and Jackson could have easily come up with another story device to give him what he needed here. As for the other flaws – you’ll see them as they come and you’ll snicker. They are annoying and get in the way of the storytelling.
What really lacks here is the emotional punch you would expect from a movie about a dead girl. Perhaps it’s because she is telling her own story so matter-of-factly, but whatever the reason, I found it hard to get emotionally involved with any of the characters. To go back to the What Dreams May Come example, that film had me crying from start to finish, while this film failed to get me to shed a single tear.
So while it’s a beautiful, artistic, and aesthetically pleasing film with a couple of good performances, overall it wasn’t handled correctly by someone who should have been able to do a much better job with this challenging material. C+