Sunday, February 21, 2010

Film Review - The Lovely Bones

Film #25 of 2010 - The Lovely Bones

Based on Alice Sebold's 2002 book of the same name, Peter Jackson's latest directorial effort, The Lovely Bones is a complete mess. There's absolutely no other way to put it. The film tells the story of Susie Salmon, (Saoirse Ronan) a 14 year old girl in suburban Pennsylvania who is raped and murdered in 1973. She then spends the next two years watching over her friends and in particular, her family, who try to put the pieces of their lives back together, except her father Jack, (Mark Wahlberg) and younger sister Lindsey (Rose McIver) who are still trying to bring the person responsible to justice. The audience is told who the murderer is right away; a neighbor of the Salmons named George Harvey (Stanley Tucci), and, like a Hitchcock film, we are given more information than the protagonists and spend the rest of the film watching them "figure it out".

That is the one and only time that one can ever compare anything about this film to Hitchcock, unless it was in reference to a cruel joke or on opposite day. Having read the book several years ago, I went into this film realizing that the book to film adaptation may not be the easiest, but it could certainly be done. Unfortunately, I'm fairly certain it could have been done better by an ambitious high school student. If Jackson had stuck with fairly straightforward scenes concerning the aftermath of the murder, The Lovely Bones could have had potential. However, he decided to go ethereal and absurd and turn the film into a fantasy that just ended up being a complete mess.

The scenes in the "inbetween" (a space between earth and heaven) that Susie exists in during the two year span of the film is made up of bright colors, gigantic images from her life and a gazebo that she uses as her home base. I get the point of what Jackson was saying: This is a world that exists in Susie's mind and she needs to be there until she "passes over". But it was so lame and nonsensical that I found I just couldn't make any more excuses for it, despite the fact that just for the sake of the time and money I invested to see the movie I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt. After a mere five minutes of the "inbetween" nonsense I just had to hang it up and hope for the movie to be over soon.

Though I mentioned that the scenes on earth were a lot better than the other scenes, (how could they not be?) there was a lot of fault that lied in them as well. Susan Sarandon, who played Susie's grandmother, was actually kind of likable and funny in the beginning, with her sharp tongue and ever-present cigarette. However, Jackson quickly turned her from a kind of straight talking slightly boozy type to injecting her into a "Grandma montage" where we had to endure a loud song while we watched oh-so-hilarious scenes of her trying to vacuum and clean the house while still drinking and smoking in an attempt to help keep the family together after Susie's mom Abigail (Rachel Wiesz) goes into a depressive state. Eventually, Abigail just up and leaves to go work in an orchard somewhere (I was yearning to follow her) and disappears for half the movie. Meanwhile, Jack stays behind and starts to put the pieces together, eventually finally honing in on Harvey. I can't really fault Wahlberg too much, nor really, any other actor in the film. They really did all that they could with the material they were given. When given crap, there's not much else you can do with it but flush it away.

Here Be Spoilers

I normally don't go too crazy criticizing specific chunks of a film when the overall film is so bad, but I can't help but call out several moments during the seemingly endless ending to the film. (Seriously, the ending of the film lasted about a half hour and I think there were about three endings happening.) First of all, when kid sister Lindsey finally decides to take some action and go look in Harvey's house for some evidence, she uncovers a book that not only lays out everything about Harvey's plans with Susie, but physical evidence as well. When he comes home while she's still in the house (like usual) she doesn't plan her escape from his upstairs room, but instead continues to page through the book. I couldn't believe it, and thought my eyes were going to roll out of my head from doing several full revolutions at that point. But no, that wasn't it. We are supposed to believe that okay, she somehow narrowly escaped him, runs to her house screaming for her Dad, and Abigail decides to choose that very moment to come back, stand in the living room and make up with her family, leaving Harvey a good ten minutes to pack his bag and get the hell outta dodge while Lindsay stands and watches her parents hug, while clutching the death book in her hand. She finally comes to her senses but oh, sorry, thanks for playing - he's gone and the police aren't going to find anything at this point because he's not only packed his bags, but somehow managed to lift a heavy floor safe containing Susie's body into his truck in that ten minutes Lindsay was making googly eyes.

There was another ending a few minutes later that involve Susie inhabiting the town's creepy girl for a moment so she could give the guy she had a crush on before she died a kiss (I'm serious, and it doesn't make any more sense if you have context, trust me) but I honestly am getting angry again rehashing all of this in my head, so I think I had better end this review soon.

I really liked Peter Jackson's film Heavenly Creatures and then he did those epic fantasy Lord of the Rings films that were technically fantastic and well done but complete yawnfests, but it seems that he's really resting on his past films' cred because King Kong really sucked (and I would have walked out of it if I hadn't actually been the driver that night) and now The Lovely Bones, which is an uncompromisingly bad film. Yes, Stanley Tucci did well, and he was super creepy, but his performance doesn't make it worth it see this movie; nothing does. I picture Tucci's Oscar nomination like a Venus fly trap - you venture in to see the performance and you get ensnared in this stupid and egregiously bad film. Don't take the bait, seriously. I'm sure there's some wet paint on a wall you can watch somewhere that will be a better use of your time.

1.5 stars out of 5

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