The Lovely Bones

Distributed by Dreamworks Pictures

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                Some time ago, a G-POP.net writer reviewed the 2002 novel by Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones.  The review made the book sound very intriguing.  When I learned that Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, had bought the rights to The Lovely Bones and was working on the movie, I wanted to see it, but never got the opportunity.  Happily, that same reviewer found a copy of the 2009 film adaptation by Peter Jackson and we watched it together.

                When fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon (Saorse Ronan) headed off to school wearing a funky hat knit for her by her mother, she could never have expected what would happen to her that afternoon.  She had enjoyed a happy life with her family, imagining that one day she would become a wildlife photographer and fantasizing about a relationship with high school senior Ray Singh (Reece Ritchie).  In fact, at least one of those dreams was about to come true Ė the object of her crush asked to meet her at the gazebo in the local mall.

                Unfortunately, Susie will never make it, tricked by Mr. George Harvey (Stanley Tucci), a neighbor who is known for his beautiful flowers and artistic skill in making dollhouses.  Unfortunately, it is what people in the neighborhood donít know about Mr. Harvey that might have stopped Susie from being so trusting.   Mr. Harvey is a serial killer with a penchant toward young girls.  Susie Salmon just became his latest victim. 

                But Susie isnít ready to be dead just yet.  Caught in between the land of the living and the dead, Susie has something she has to do.  She has to help her father bring her killer to justice and protect her family from the pain and anguish of loss that threatens to tear them apart.  But how can she achieve any of this if she isnít capable of making people see or hear her?

                The Lovely Bones is one of those films that you will either love or hate.  Nobody could take fault with the acting in the film.  Mark Wahlberg is heart-wrenching as the distraught father determined to make things right for his family.  Rachel Weisz is similarly excellent as the distraught mother who canít face the fact that her daughter is never coming home again.  Iíve seen Saorse Ronanís dramatic acting abilities before in the movie Atonement and was surprised at such acting ability from someone so young.  Thus, it was not surprising that Saorse Ronan could pull off the incredibly dramatic role of Susie Salmon.

                Stanley Tucci is one of those actors who can immerse himself so deeply into a role, he is unrecognizable.  This time around, he had some help in the form of makeup, fake teeth that changed his jawline, a toupee and more.  I kept staring at this man who I had come to hate in the film wondering where I had seen him before until I caught the end credits and realized who he was.  Itís no surprise that Tucci wanted to be unrecognizable in this role Ė George Harvey is so sleazy that the viewer will want to reach through the screen and throttle him. 

Other notable performances come from Rose McIver as Susieís sister Lindsey, Susan Sarandon as Susieís alcoholic, chain-smoking, fun grandmother  and relatively unknown Carolyn Dando as the spirit sensitive Ruth Connors, whose facial expressions do more to express her emotions than any of her lines in the film.

What people might take issue with is the way in which Peter Jackson attempts to display to viewers Susieís experience in the afterlife.  There is a great deal of artistic symbolism and special effects in these scenes and many people will find themselves somewhat confused or simply put off by this.  Iím open to artistic expression and understood what Jackson was trying to do here, but I can see why others might not enjoy these segments of the film.   That being said, the acting and the filmís storyline are interesting enough of to keep the viewer captivated, even if they find the artistic stuff a bit on the weird side. 

I found the film to be excellent, but readers of the book be forewarned: this movie is different from the book in various ways.  The order of events is different and some moments in the book either donít make it into the film or are interpreted a bit differently.  And those moments in the ďotherworldĒ are allegedly better explained in the novel than in the film.  I will say that I enjoyed the movie version of The Lovely Bones so much that it has inspired me to check out the book and all of its differences.


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