Monday, December 21, 2009


By D.E.Levine

Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson (screenplay); Alice Sebold (novel)
Producers: Carolynne Cunningham, Peter Jackson, Aimee Peyronnet and Fran Walsh
Executive Producers: Ken Kamins, Tessa Ross, Steven Spielberg and James Wilson
Co-producers: Marc Ashton and Philippa Boyens
Line Producer: Anne Bruning
Cast: Saoirse Ronan. Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, Amand Michalka, Jake Abel, Roser McIver, Michael Imperioli, Nikki SooHoo, Reece Ritchie et al.
Original Music: Brian Eno
Running Time: 139 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States and New Zealand
Language: English
Genre: Mystery, Drama, Crime

The original book of "The Lovely Bones" was haunting and memorable. It focused on the aftermath of a terrible murder as told through the words and eyes of the murder victim, a young, pretty 14-year old girl. Besides the unspeakable tragedy, the book focused on the hard-earned healing that takes place.

To turn it into a film, even with a director like Peter Jackson, is difficult. Unfortunately,it's exactly Jackson's infatuation with visual effects that and celestial evocations that severely undermine the film. Additionally, his film is the story of a crime and punishment.

Artistically, the film is a disappointment. The story is still told by a 14-year old girl (Susie Salmon) who was raped and murdered in December 6, 1973 by a serial killer neighbor who has escaped attention and capture for many years.

But, instead of allowing Susie Salmon to inhabit an isolated perch in heaven from which she can view her family, Jackson has chosen to produce shifting and distracting backdrops depicting the afterlife surrounding Susie as she attempts to adjust to Heaven.

Set in a mid-sized Pennsylvania town where life is ordinary and unremarkable and as Susie intones the fact that her family weren't people to whom bad things happen, the viewer is introduced to her young, attractive parents, younger brother, sporty and competitive sister Lindsey, glamorous Grandma and a handsome first crush.

Stanley Tucci, adorned with a blond wig, glasses and a raspy voice that changes under pressure, is the creepy neighbor George Harvey who commits the crimes.

His character is developed as being totally ordinary and we know he kills Susie before the act takes place. It's his sheer ordinary persona that makes him even creepier, plus the shots used by Jackson to shoot his scenes.

Local cop Len Fenerman is repeatedly frustrated as his efforts to solve Susie's murder are thwarted. Susie's father Jack suspects the neighbor and is consumed by rage over his inability and lack of evidence to pin the crime on him.

While Susie was lively, vivacious and beautiful, her sister Lindsey is more solidly built. Lindsey was always in Susie's shadow until she grows to the point where her new-found maturity and resourcefulness lead her to spy on the neighbor and solve the mystery.

Throughout the film, Susie, from Heaven sees how slowly and painfully healing is achieved and what it costs. Some characters still sense her presence and even believe that she appears to them.

Since the film attempts to be a thriller, there is a focus on how the killer will be caught and punished. Indeed there is suspense, drama and thrills when Lindsey breaks into George's house to get evidence of his involvement in Susie's murder and George returns home.

But in the end, while the film is interesting and the performances strong, the joy and heartbreak of the book does not translate to the film.