Recently my husband and I rented two of the newest films to come out on DVD. The first one was “The Young Victoria,” which we both loved. Please check out my review of that film.
The second was “The Lovely Bones.” While I liked parts of the film, overall my husband liked it much more than I did. I’m seldom into films that are overtly gruesome in nature; particularly those that don’t have the happiest of endings.
The movie is told from the perspective of 14-year-old Susie Salmon (played by Saoirse Ronan); a girl just coming into her own. She is experiencing the first throes of love with classmate, Ray Singh.
Susie is excited about life. She has a wonderful family that includes devoted father Jack (played by Mark Wahlberg) and doting mother Abigail (played by Rachel Weisz). She also has a loving younger sister names Lindsey (played by Rose McIver) and a small brother named Buckley (played by Christian Thomas Ashdale), whose life she recently saved. In addition, she has an eccentric but wise grandmother (played by Susan Sarandon).
Unfortunately, Susie’s life is interrupted just as she and Ray make plans for their first date. She is lured into a trap and then killed by an evil pedophile that lives nearby.
Most of the film takes place from Susie’s perspective from the “in between” world between heaven and earth. Because her body has never been found, Susie can’t move on. Instead she is forced to observe the destruction of her family as a result of her death. She is also forced to observe her killer as he plots to kill again.
There are two major positives about this film. First is the incredible cinematography and special effects without which the movie would have been completely depressing and morbid. The second is the acting.
Ronan is a lovable and convincing heroine. Her wide-eyed innocence and guileless nature make it all the harder to watch her character be robbed of everything she holds so dear. Her portrayal hits home, particularly in this day and age when child abduction seems to be an everyday occurrence.
Character actor Stanley Tucci plays the role of George Harvey with chilling conviction. It is easy to see why he received several award nominations for this part. He was a too convincing villain that casts a heavy pall over the entire film.
Wahlberg, of whom I am not a big fan, plays Susie’s father with such passion and love. He is so could that it is difficult to believe he really isn’t really going through his own personal hell.
Weisz, who I fell in love with during the Mummy movies, underplays the role of the mother with practiced skill. It is easy to visualize her internal turmoil as her world falls apart around her.
Sarandon is a hoot as a pill-popping, chain-smoking, boozy grandmother with a heard of gold. Her character may not be perfect but Sarandon breathes real life and empathy into her.
Ashdale provides a performance that tugs at the heart as he tries to understand how his sister is gone yet he can still see and feel her. The role is small, but a memorable one.
McIver is perfect as the younger sister who idolizes Susie and is determined to find out who stole her away from the family that loved her. It is she that finally uncovers the clues that lead the police in the right direction some two plus years after Susie’s disappearance.
This is a hard film to watch. That is partly due to the subject matter and partly due to the realistic portrayal of evil in its purest form. I, quite frankly, stopped watching when it became evident the killer would get away with it and continue his killing spree.
My husband was able to finish watching and assures me that justice arrived in the end. I simply couldn’t wait any longer. As I said, this is not an easy movie to watch. It certainly is not a film for the faint of heart despite the fact that the murder itself isn’t portrayed on screen; only its aftermath. Even that was more than I cared to witness.
Cinematically, there is much beautiful about this film. It is full of light and color and visual beauty, not just darkness and dankness. But is it enough to overcome the negatives? For me, it was not, but you can judge that for yourself.
The screenplay, written by Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, is lacking something. I can’t put my finger on exactly what that is. Whatever it is, it makes one wonder if the movie is worth viewing.
Director Peter Jackson, on the other hand, does a masterful job making this unusual story work despite its flaws. He paints amazing pictures with his actors’ innate abilities and then forces them to reach even deeper and further than they normally might. The outcome is often breathtaking.
I cannot in good conscious recommend this film. That is not because I don’t think it is a good film in many ways. I just can’t recommend a movie that is so morbid in nature to an open public. I can; however, say this: If you can watch it without being sucked into its sadness, you will find a lot of value in the acting, directing, cinematography and special effects.
I give “The Lovely Bones” 2 ½ stars out of 5. It’s a toss up. I leave it to you if you want to take the plunge.
RATING SCALE USED:
0 = A stinker. Don’t waste the money!
1 = Bad. Rent it at your own risk.
2 = Below average. See only if you have time to kill.
2.5 = Average. A toss up.
3 = Good. Worth a looksee.
3.5 = Very Good. I recommend it.
4 = Excellent. Don’t miss it!
4.5 = Outstanding. What are you waiting for?
5 = Destined to become a classic. You will be sorry if you don’t see it.