Ohhh, The Lovely Bones. Popularist tripe if ever there was. I habitually loathe books that people read because everyone else is reading them (Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code, Twilight) and this was a true case in point. But when I heard the film adaptation was being steered by Peter Jackson, I caved a little. Let's see what all the fuss is about, etc. I do try to read the book before the film comes out if I am meaning to see it. So I read it, and whaddayaknow? IT'S DULL. The concept is fairly good, but it doesn't go anywhere and doesn't mean anything. It's not a satisfying read, plus there's a possession scene at the end that just made me want to throw the book across the room and rock on the floor crying. Anyways, the ordeal had to be gone through as prep for the film version, which is fronted by a starry cast and boasts awe inspiring CGI from Jackson & co.
I had high hopes Jackson could do a good job with this as I have loved every film of his I have seen, and also by a comment he made where he stated this would be his own interpretation of the book. Hurrah - make it more interesting. But I feel the acclaimed director may have produced his first dud.
It was flawed in so many ways. I hated the snow globe scene at the very beginning - not a good start to proceedings. The timeline in which it was told for one seemed clumsy, beginning with a sketching over of Susie's childhood (the dreaded "so many years later" device) including snipped narrative of random events such as when she saved her brother's life, and then plunging into the revelation that she is murdered aged 14 by her neighbour Mr Harvey. The film only really gets going from this moment on, when we are in the present and the story is allowed to flow.
I was hugely disappointed by the In-Between scenes. I can't work out if this is because I had watched the trailer so many times and read a lot of articles on the film beforehand. Either way they failed to deliver a gasp of breath, and overall seemed a little cheesy for want of a better word. Some bits I liked (Susie's connection to the human world being through a Summer House), but was it just there for CGI sake? I thought the tone and music of the film was misjudged as well. I wanted to shake the characters sometimes - they seemed so blase about things, particularly the grandmother. The scene where she arrives to head up the house and help with the housework is all kinds of horrible. The music is so jaunty - SUSIE IS DEAD FOR CHRISSAKE! SHOW ME GRIEF! At times the event was portrayed in such a light-hearted and nonchalent way it wrecked the weight of the story.
There were some bits I liked: my favourite two scenes both involving Stanley Tucci who was marvellous as the repressed psycho, Mr Harvey (pity it is felt needed to kill him off horribly at the end). Peter Jackson is certainly good at building up suspense - loved the scene where Lindsey breaks into Mr Harvey's house, and when he lures Susie into the hatch. It's a mixture of "ARGH DON'T DO IT!/NO ONE IS THAT STUPID!/THIS IS TOO UNCOMFORTABLE TO WATCH!" One thing I am greatly surprised about though is the lack of violence. In the book it is implicitly stated (and written) that Susie is raped and murdered. Yet in the film, Jackson shies away from this - her murder shown through blood and dirt splattered in the bathroom and lingering shots of the knife. Why I find it odd is that Peter Jackson in Heavenly Creatures is responsible for the most - in my opinion - disturbing and brutal murder scene of all time. Plus he has a background in horror movies. I struggle with why he wants to make The Lovely Bones so PG friendly.
Saoirse Ronan was luminous. She's such a beautiful little actress, even though she forces it a bit too much at times. I thought she epitomised a 1970s suburban teen with such deftness (her accent skills are remarkable) and she managed to carry such emotion in a role that will no question elevate her career. In contrast Susie's parents Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz are horribly, horribly miscast. They don't bring any authenticity at all, their acting so bad it generated an ill placed giggle at times. The rest of the cast are spread so thinly that it is hard to feel anything towards them and truly buy into the grief (if any!) they are feeling over Susie's death. And the possession scene was in there too! NOOOOOO!
Certainly not as bad as some reviews have suggested, but don't rush out to see The Lovely Bones. I thought Peter Jackson could salvage this drab material but he hasn't.