Anticipated Jackson thriller not quite so lovely
Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones is a mind-blowing achievement in failure; a shining example in how big names, big budget, big effects and a popular book can make a terrible movie.
The Lovely Bones is Jackson’s big screen adaptation of Alice Sebold’s popular novel about a young girl who is murdered and watches over her family as they search for closure.
And this film truly is Jackson’s. The film seems permanently imprinted with his trademark style, and in this case, that’s not a good thing.
Jackson, whose past works include the very successful adaptations of The Lord of The Rings trilogy, picked the entirely wrong book to adapt this time.
He seems to have taken his obsession for epic filmmaking as well as his crew for it and misplace it on a popular teen drama book about child murder.
A story of a murdered child and her grieving family should not be portrayed with the same sort of cinematography and special effects as a fantasy epic. This sounds bad on paper but, in reality, it’s a train wreck.
The story itself follows Susie Salmon, a girl who is sexually assaulted and murdered by a neighbor and then finds herself in some kind of purgatory, referred to as “the in between” in the film.
In this purgatory, Susie experiences a mix of her teenage fantasies, horrific memories of her murder and brief moments in which she can see and slightly communicate with her family. Meanwhile her family deteriorates in grief.
Susie’s father obsessively tracks her killer; her mother breaks down and leaves the family to pick oranges in California with illegal immigrants; and her sister manages to become valedictorian, get a boyfriend and take up jogging.
Aside from the fact that Susie’s younger sister is the strongest member of the family and her mother ends up being the absolute worst parent on the face of the earth, the family’s reactions are reasonable.
Of course most of this conflict means nothing by the end of the movie as the characters find their own peace of mind without the killer ever being brought to justice or any real closure being offered to the characters (or the audience for that matter).
In the end, the killer is brought to justice by one of the most innocuous and random acts of chance imaginable, leaving the emotional journey of Susie’s family (and the audience) almost meaningless.
The only attempted comfort comes in the form of a convoluted monologue by Susie that claims that the film was all about how everyone who knew her somehow gained something from this experience – a claim that can’t be made for the audiences being subjected to the film.
There are many scenes in The Lovely Bones that are good as stand alone pieces. The film boasts some often powerful and intriguing cinematography and editing but it is consistently misused.
Intense shots and pacing are often placed incorrectly, forcing the film into either being overtly melodramatic or laughably inappropriate for the tone of the scene.
The visual effects and heavily emotive direction often make the film feel like an after school special turned bad student art film, something realized by most of the audience by the time they find themselves watching Susie scream silently in a white washed bathroom at Stanley Tucci playing George Harvey (her murderer) while he bathes himself.
The artistic design for Susie’s personal “in between” space is similarly overblown as it magnifies seemingly random objects and images from the narrative as parts of massive landscapes of the bizarre Barbie acid trip that is Susie’s horrific imagination.
There are far too many flaws in The Lovely Bones to fit into a single article. The characters are absurd, un-relatable and stereotypical.
The acting is subpar. The tone is consistently off. The story is unfocused and lazy. In the end, the message is convoluted, silly and insulting to the people who actually have to deal with these kinds of tragedies in reality.
The Lovely Bones is a piece of overblown fluff attempting to be imaginative, poignant and thoughtful, but it is in fact just stupid.