Posted on 1/15/10 02:54 PM
Peter Jackson's fantasy, horror, melodrama, The Lovely Bones is affecting, for sure; but also entirely manipulative.
14 year old Susie Salmon (a wonderful Soarise Ronan) is murdered in December of 1973, but doesn't completely move on to the afterlife. Instead she hangs around a gorgeous limbo studying and influencing her devastated family as they try to locate the killer and find closure.
The film is almost recommendable, only for Jackson's signature breathtaking visuals. He turns the "in between" into a psychedelic dreamscape of natural and artificial beauty. The film stresses that Susie is not quite in heaven and not quite on earth so Jackson has all sorts of natural wonders to work with as he stretches the limits of imagination to create a visual splendor thats almost sublime in it's design and execution.
In a perfect world (like the one Jackson has dreamed up) the film would have used the remarkable imagery to highlight a well told story, but no; this is still earth. The film has serious tone and plotting issues. Thematically scatter-brained, the story feels muddled, and the whole lacks a basic organization of ideas and smooth narrative structure. The result is a peculiar piece thats at the same time resonant and completely incongruous. Jackson's film is calculated for fears and especially tears, gets them, but earns almost nothing.
Anything we feel for Susie Salmon, in The Lovely Bones, is certainly due to the work of Soarise Ronan who inhabits all the sweet and bitter vulnerabilities of the character. In life she begins to experience love for the first time, but in death she must confront the budding hatred she feels for her murderer. She says, "He took everthing from me. What am I now, that lost girl, that dead girl, that missing girl? I hate him!" And we believe it. Ronan brings a humanity to the part even after Susie's humanity has been long stripped from her.
This is Peter Jackson at his most indulgent. He demonstrates very little control and comes off a bit cowardly; constantly avoiding the books heavy subject matter to rest in his comfort zone of special effects. This convoluted misstep is certainly the result of a mismatch between director and material. Stick to the shire, Pete.