Genre: Fantasy Running Time: 2 hrs. 15 min.
Release Date: December 11th, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Peter Jackson Actors: Saoirse Ronan, Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Michael Imperioli
he brilliant performances by all involved are about the only things that remain consistent throughout Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones.” The deceased narrator sometimes brings touching observations, but also offers plenty of confusing musings; the extravagant visualization of the afterlife rarely gels with the present; and eerie imagery is mixed with lighthouses and gigantic floating bottles with tiny ships inside. Bizarre, to say the least. The mood also changes drastically, from playful childhood moments to ominous preparations by a murderer to the burning desires of a 14-year-old for a first kiss. The twists and turns rarely dull, but the conclusions are unfounded, circumstantial, and often pulled from nowhere, like a rabbit from a magician’s hat. At least the rabbit didn’t have to travel through a grassy purgatory for 2 ½ hours.
Young Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) reminisces upon her generally cheerful childhood, full of loving family and romantic crushes. But her hopes and dreams are shattered forever when she falls prey to a sadistic killer. As she attempts to adjust to her etherial arrival in a mystical place between heaven and hell, her family must cope with the unexpected loss of their child. The trauma steadily tears her parents apart, forcing Susie to wrestle with her desire for vengeance and the longing for her family to heal.
“The Lovely Bones” is all over the map, unfocused, unorganized, and mostly too poorly developed to convey the multitude of complex afterlife theories involved in the original story (the novel by Alice Sebold). Considering the enormous number of definitions necessary to properly describe Jackson’s version of purgatory, the film lacks a great deal of explaining. It’s up to a whimsical narration to convince audiences that what they’re seeing is supposed to somehow represent “in-between the horizon,” and that Susie’s place in that world is both justified and believable – despite it initially feeling like “Silent Hill.”
The setting of 1973, with general innocence and naivety prevailing over sinister realities, is a wise decision – and Stanley Tucci’s calm yet disturbingly compulsive villain obtains a unique and horrifyingly creepy realism. While Susie is stewing over her losses with her lone companion, Holly Golightly (Nikki Soohoo), viewers are never really sure of her limitations, what she’s capable of doing amongst the dreamlike gardens and cornfields, how time passes for her while her sister grows up and her loved ones cope, or to what extent she can interact with her family. She’s like Whoopi Goldberg in “Ghost,” except far more useless. The majority of the film focuses on grieving, observing, and granny’s (Susan Sarandon) alcoholic shenanigans, instead of thrillingly solving a murder or haunting her killer, leaving audiences with little more than the rehashed plot of “Ghost” and “The Invisible” and the uneasy feeling of seeing a 14-year-old obsessed with ambiguous true love.
– The Massie Twins