This Week at the Movies: The Lovely Bones



 Peter Jackson achieved worldwide critical and financial success over the past decade with such movies as the The Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong. Each film was superbly re-imagined from its original source material, as is evidenced by the 34 Oscar nominations, 20 Oscar wins and nearly $3.5 billion dollars made between them. So when Paramount announced that Jackson would again attempt to adapt yet another hugely popular story into film – this time Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones – expectations (namely, for more money and awards awareness) were understandably high. After all, any studio these days would get behind a guy like Peter Jackson writing, directing and producing a film based on an American phenomenon.

Much to the dismay of Paramount, The Lovely Bones has suffered from bad buzz and ho-hum sales in its recent theatrical release. This review, moreover, will do little or nothing to help its cause. Though I have never read the book before, Jackson’s adaptation suffers from a number of problems that any good film would avoid.


Starring Saoirse (or something like that) Ronan as the 14-year-old Susie Salmon, the plot of The Lovely Bones follows the Salmon family whom have recently suffered the tragic murder of their daughter, Susie. Susie spends the majority of the film stuck in some purgatory-like heaven (on acid), while attempting to provide clues to her father, as played by Mark Wahlberg, mother, as played (terribly) by Rachel Weisz, and siblings concerning the identity of her murderer, as played quite convincingly by Stanley Tucci.


So what problems plague The Lovely Bones? First of all, Ronan’s narration for the audience is annoyingly slow and zombie-like. Sure, I get that she is dead, but do I really need to listen to her speak as some otherworldly spirit for two hours? Furthermore, a number of scenes/characters are either completely unnecessary or are impossible to take seriously. For instance, one strangely upbeat sequence focuses on Susie’s grandmother cleaning and shaping up the Salmon house, just after Susie’s mother deserts the family. Though I should have been sympathizing with the characters on screen – particularly at a time when the family has lost not one but two of its members – I honestly thought I was watching Mary Poppins.


Worst of all, though, is the bizarre imagery used to depict Susie’s sense of “the beyond,” as well as the characters that inhabit this other world. The audience watches as Susie and her other dead friends dance around majestic fields. It’s right out of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but it’s juxtaposed with a family in mourning. Wtf?


Hence, while many fans of the book might be curious to see this, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. The Lovely Bones is playing at The Hamilton Theater now.