"I wasn't lost, or frozen, or gone... I was alive; I was alive in my own perfect world. "
Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Stanley Tucci, Mark Wahlberg
It’s not that The Lovely Bones doesn’t have its moments of mind-blowing cinematic incredibleness, it’s just that such moments are all too fleeting. The first thirty minutes of this film was really impressive. It is beautiful, moving, tense, terrifying, involving and it instils a sadness into the audience because we know what is soon to become of the charming, fresh-faced Susie Salmon. The first act explains how Susie died and runs through her last moments. Knowing what is about to happen to her, I found the murder scene to be one of the most horrible things I’ve seen all year… and I’ve seen Antichrist! Gore-free, this sequence is horrifying because of Stanley Tucci’s menacing Ned Flanders-esque child killer. He is certainly the creepiest villain of the year and up there with the best of ‘em for inspiring nightmares later that night.
However, soon after Susie enters the “in-between”, a heavenly world that she inhabits with some random girl for no good reason (no spoilers here but the reason we learn later is very silly) the film begins to slow, sweeping itself up in the crazy visuals of a world created by a young girl’s imagination. Mostly, this world sucked! It was a little bit cheesy, which is something to be avoided when you’re telling a story with such big cheese potential to begin with. Running through meadows, dressed in silly hats just got annoying very quickly. The major problem with these not-quite heavenly interludes however is the fact that it distracts from the story, which is put on hold for the frolicking. To me, this was the fatal flaw of The Lovely Bones. Once we got back to the Salmon family, things started to look up. The story got back on track and the film was, once again, masterful. Peter Jackson proves why he is a household name. He is a beautiful filmmaker that can command exactly the right tone from his actors. Mark Wahlberg as the obsessed father and Rachel Weisz as the mourning mother were perfect in their roles. Susan Sarandon had a bit too much fun hamming it up in her role as frivolous, glamorous Grandma Lynn, but nevertheless she was charming to watch as always.
Undoubtedly, the stars of this film are young Saoirse Ronan, the best young actress working today in my opinion (and not just because she hails from my hometown), and Stanley Tucci. Saoirse’s performance was a lovely balance of melancholy, wide-eyed innocence and wisdom. She conveyed the character of Susie beautifully and by the midpoint of the film you really get a sense of individuality from this character. You know her like a friend, which seriously ups the tragedy factor. Because not only do you know her, you really like her. Stanley Tucci, on the other hand, is stone cold evil personified. He delivers an Oscar-worthy performance dripping with menace. He is frightening because he calls to mind the creepy man who lives on your street that you label as “harmless, but weird”. But this one is by no means harmless. This actor is a pro and horribly underused in Hollywood. If wishes were movies, mine would be filled with Stanley Tucci.
And speaking of wishes, couldn’t Peter Jackson have just streamlined his movie a little more, left the CGI on the cutting room floor and given us a story about a young girl trying to move on and the family she can’t leave behind? If he had done that, I think this would have been an incredible film.
This is a gripping thriller, a truly emotional drama, a supernatural teen movie and an arthouse film. While it would have been much better if Jackson had managed to balance these factors more gracefully, there is much to enjoy here. And certainly worth watching if only for the two great lead performances.
- Charlene Lydon 20/1/10