Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

The Lovely Bones


Review by Patrick Hodges

The Lovely Bones is the story of a girl named Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), a normal 14-year-old girl living in 1973 Pennsylvania.  She has dreams, aspirations, and a crush on a cute older boy from school.  But tragedy strikes, and she is brutally murdered by a creepy neighbor, George Harvey (brilliantly portrayed by Stanley Tucci).  From there, she ascends, not to heaven, but to a place called the “in-between”.

There are really two halves to this story:  on the one hand, we see Peter Jackson’s interpretation of the imagination of author Alice Sebold (who wrote the novel the film is based upon).  Jackson, who did the impossible a few years ago by bringing the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy to earth-shattering life, shows that he hasn’t lost his touch, as Susie’s afterlife-world is full of beautiful images and colors so vibrant it almost hurts the eyes to watch.  But it is also a place of very stark imagery, particularly as she has a bird’s-eye view on the toll her death takes on her loved ones, particularly her parents (Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz).

For that is the other half of the story – her parents trying to cope with losing Susie (badly), the intrusion of her alcoholic, chain-smoking grandmother (Susan Sarandon), and the dogged persistence of her extremely intelligent younger sister Lindsey (Rose McIver), who suspects that their neighbor may be hiding the darkest secret of all.

I’m not quite sure if I can adequately describe my reaction to this film.  On the one hand, the acting was quite good, particularly from Ronan, who narrates the film from beginning to end, and Tucci, who just oozes creepiness from every pore.  The visual effects, as you might expect from Jackson, are terrific.  Perhaps it’s because the two halves of the story are so different that they, and the emotional impact they have, don’t mesh well together. 

And if there was some kind of point to the story, it’s entirely possible that I missed it, or that it flew by me without me noticing.  Were we supposed to be watching Susie’s family fight for justice on her behalf, or find a way to move on with their lives?  Were we supposed to root for Susie to find some way to “cross planes” in some way and make contact with the living one last time (mini-spoiler: she does, kind of), or do we hope that she finds a way to let go of her past and… well, “ascend” seems to be the right word?  Perhaps I need to have read the book to truly grasp the intentions of the author.

In conclusion, The Lovely Bones was a film that was well-made, well-acted and well-crafted in its individual parts.  Regrettably, as a whole, it ended up being somewhat less than it should have been.

2 ½ / 5 stars

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