Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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The Lovely Bones

Film #325

THE PLOT

Centers on a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family - and her killer - from purgatory. She must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal.

Year 1, Day 328

BEFORE: With a completely different genre and tone from Leatherheads, Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones is the second film in today’s double-feature. Based off of Alice Sebold’s book of the same name, Jackson delivers his, surprisingly short (at 135 minutes), take on a story of many elements (drama, supernatural). I know going into this that many critics panned the film but I’m excited to see something different from Jackson’s usual fare.

AFTER: “It’s strange, the memories you keep.” That’s a line uttered early on in the film by Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) shortly before she is murdered. The Lovely Bones is a recounting of Susie’s death from her perspective. Much of the film is told through her voice over while in heaven accompanied by the rest of her family on Earth trying to figure out what happened. The memories I’ll keep of this film are of it’s superb acting. Memories that I won’t keep, or at least will alter during reconsolidation, are ones regarding the incorporation of the supernatural elements.

George Harvey (Stanley Tucci), the neighbor who murders Susie, is one of the most creepiest people I have ever seen. Not only is it disgusting what he does, but it is incredibly disturbing at how sympathetic and nice he can be when he’s trying to entice the children to do what he wants. And Stanley Tucci gives a performance of a lifetime. From someone who’s played such jovial and nice characters like the father in Easy A, Julia Child’s husband in Julie & Julia, or most recently Caesar in The Hunger Games, it’s disconcerting to see how well he plays this villain. His nomination for Best Supporting Actor was definitely deserved, and as big a fan as I am of Christoph Waltz’s winning performance as Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds, Tucci does an equally great job. Other fantastic performances in the film belong to Susan Sarandon as the grandmother, Mark Wahlberg as the father, and Saoirse Ronan as the aforementioned Susie Salmon. While none of these are anywhere near Tucci’s performance, they were all top notch.

Acting really carried The Lovely Bones and helped me accept things I might otherwise have not. One major thing that I wasn’t fully onboard with was telling the story through Susie’s point of view. Not only was there her voice over, but we also see her journey through heaven, or rather the “in between” as her brother calls it. At times I thought this was brilliantly done and at others, it felt like it was getting in the way and being too overt about discussing death. I understand the film is based off a book and this is how the book is structured (as far as I know, I haven’t read it - big surprise). But I think this is an adaptation issue. Life of Pi has a similar feel to it where you can tell the writing in the book conveys the idea the author wants better than any visual interpretation can. With The Lovely Bones, Jackson gets the idea of how this can be shown - through Susie “communicating” with reality - but strays from it several times. Again, my thoughts would be more credible and enlightening if I had read the book and knew what the intention is, but from just watching the film (which many people probably do), it doesn’t feel right.

The Lovely Bones was a good mix of acting, suspense, and themes. Not only do you become invested in Susie and the rest of the Salmon family, but the film also forces you to think about issues like safety (or lack thereof), death, and faith. Some issues and problems arise, most likely as a result of the adaptation from the book of the same name, but they can mostly be looked past for the sake of enjoying, and at many times, being frightened by the film.

RATING: 3 out of 5