The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones (2009)

It goes all the way back to.. er, for the sake of the argument, let’s say Hamlet. Maybe death ain’t all that bad. “To sleep, perchance to dream, ay there’s the rub. For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come”. Peter Jackson’s new movie The Lovely Bones tells the story of a 14 year old girl who is murdered by a child murderer cliché (Stanley Tucci) and then lives on in a limbo between life and death until she’s ready to move along. That’s the premise. Now, I’m not necessarily opposed to that premise. There are many ways this movie can play out. Unfortunately, Peter Jackson takes every possible route he can find simultaneously at once. I guess you might wonder: Does the girl make contact with her parents? Well, sorta. Does she feel sad about being dead at 14? Well…. sorta… Does she help them discover her murderer? Weeell… sorta. All that is certain is that she spends a lot of time stare into a cryptic nothingness, when she’s not running in slow motion. Meanwhile, her dad (Mark Wahlberg) goes insane, for a while, I think… sorta. Her mom (Rachel Weisz) gets burnt out, sorta, and leaves, kind of. A little sad, you think? Not to worry! We have a comic relief grandma, Susan Sarandon, a funny alcoholic who takes care of the kids in a wacky montage. I kid you not. This is the bipolar state of this movie.

I mean, to begin with, a 14 year old girl getting murdered by a creepy old sociopath is, well, what I’d call a touchy subject. You better know what you get yourself into when you are to tell this story (and yes, I’m ignoring the fact it’s based on a book. That should never be an excuse for any movie, nor into consideration upon reviewing it). But Jackson, with his usual screenwriters Walsh/Boyens, have created the most baffling and inconsiderate screenplay I’ve seen in a long time. The speechy dialogue is about as believable as if Lord of the Rings would have been a modern day story, and the movie is eagerly directed as if there’s really an urgency to tell this story. Little Suzie Salmon (aww) is jumping around heavenly fields and talks poetically through voice-over about the wonders of life and death. The elephant in the room is constantly the fact that this girl has been MURDERED. You know, as a human being you tend to imagine her cold, stale and dead, rotting away somewhere. It kind of goes with the conception of child molestation and murder, or maybe that’s just me. Had she just died for some random reason, it wouldn’t have been a problem, I guess. It would still be sappy, of course, but at least not incomprehensible. Naturally, that would be another movie so never mind.

Stanley Tucci’s murderer is never given any point of origin or any significant cause. He barely even gets a story line of his own. You want him to get what’s coming to him? Or maybe you manage to feel some kind of sympathy with him? In any case that’s too bad, because the movie is frankly uninterested in him and his character arch is barely even finished. This is not a serial killer movie. There’s a cop there, but it’s not a thriller. There’s high school romance, but the movie isn’t about adolescence. There’s the grieving parents, but the movie says really nothing about believable family problems. There’s a girl on the other side, yet this is not an other-side ghost story either. The movie just goes on and on, first this happens, then that. There’s sappy moments and there’s some scary ones. It doesn’t matter. It consists of nothing. The movie is a mess. They could have cut down on the sugar and made it realistic. They could have developed the murder into a plot and made a thriller. They could have set up some kind of direct contact with the dead girl and the parents to make a ghost story. They could have avoided the murder to make it easier to swallow. They could have done… SOMETHING… but they did it all, eagerly, and came out with a movie that I recommend nobody to see.

Also. The name of the killer is Mr. Harvey, and Stanley Tucci does the role with a fairly blatant James Stewart impression…. Huh?

30/3 2010