Wednesday, June 30, 2010

#30-The Lovely Bones (2009)

The Lovely Bones

It is interesting to go from one of Peter Jackson’s more enjoyable films, Dead Alive, to what is possibly his worst, with The Lovely Bones (Mike called it on his comment below Dead Alive) . Once again he is in the business of adapting a novel to the big screen, this time one about a murder instead of a ring, a girl instead of a hobbit, and the 70’s instead of middle earth. And while I think that The Lovely Bones is a hard project to do, simply because you have both strong dealings with fantasy and reality, and must communicate both to the audience in a sense that makes them accessible, I just can’t help but feel like Jackson dropped the ball a little on this one.

Our story follows a young girl by the name of Susie Salmon (
Saoirse Ronan) who is living a typical teenage life in the seventies with her Mother (Rachel Weisz), Father (Mark Wahlberg), Brother and Sister. Susie is a typical young girl, loves taking pictures, is in film club, has a crush on the boy, and goes to school. Unfortunately while walking home from club one day she finds out that her neighbor (Stanley Tucci) is building a club house next to the school, ’Just a little something for the kids’ with only one rule: ’no adults allowed’. He invites Susie to be the first one inside the club house, but she never does make it out.

Stanley Tucci received an Oscar nomination for his work on the film, and I got to say, he deserves it. He plays a really creepy man thoroughly and mercilessly. He is simply terrifying to watch onscreen, as with Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds (not quite there, but close) The rest of the cast does a decent job, virtual new-comer Saoirse Ronan does an okay job of playing our lead girl, and Wahlberg and Weisz perform middle ground as well, but unfortunately, their characters get pushed to the wayside by Stanley Tucci, who simply steals the spotlight whenever he appears. Rachel Weisz’s character could have been left out altogether, as could so many others, who seem to be put there for just more dialogue.

Now, what The Lovely Bones does differently from other murder mystery’s, is it puts Susie in ’the in-between’ which is a world of completely fantasy, untouched by reality, as she is able to look down and see her family, and she must remain here until her killer is caught. This is where Jackson excels, he is a great fantasy director, and he can capture leaves on a tree turning into birds and flying off well enough, but where he struggles is with the real world, which is half of the film as well. Part of the film is the family falling apart after the murder of their daughter, but I didn’t care about the family falling apart because I didn’t care about the family. They are not given enough time to tell us their story, nor are we given enough reason to care about them. All we want, or really need to see is the Tucci character interacting with them and the police. I could care less about the grandmother moving in with them, and I could care less about their marital issues, and the screenplay was not written to make you care, which unfortunately is a major flaw of the movie because it is a good chuck of its running time.

"My name is Salmon, like the fish."

Another problem that comes with the movie is the way the Tucci character is created. He is set up as the nicest guy in the world before we meet him, so we have a little tiny spec of sympathy for him, even though we know he is going to be the killer. He then proceeds to what killers do, and progressively get more and more creepy by the end of the film. What is wrong with this, is we never actually see the murder. We see a little bit of struggle and that’s it, the camera cuts away before she is actually killed, and in fact, because of the whole ‘in-between’ business, we think that she’s escaped for some time, which is a fatal mistake. Though we already dislike the Tucci character, and hate him as it is, had we actually seen the murder, had the tones been darker, had the camera been rougher, we could have really, really hated this man. I think, by the way a few of the scenes go, this movie was originally intended to be an R rated film. To be a hard-hitting make you cry kinda movie, and was later changed into a PG-13 teeny-bopper thing, which was not a good move for the film itself.

Another gigantic problem I had with it was the ending. When it happen I just stared open-mouthed at the screen and went “Really?”. I mean I won’t spoil it here, but we knew that the real world could effect the ‘in-between’, but that just took it way to far. Not only that but the way the scene was shot, it happen all to quickly, without much context, and couldn’t really effect our opinion. It was one of those rousing scenes where everyone screams in joy because of it, it was just this tacked-on little ‘oh, by the way, this happens’ which nearly killed the movie for me. Because this part was happening in the real world. In reality this never would have happened. The film needed to separate the reality and in-between to make it effective, but they just don’t pull them far enough apart, and this scene is the perfect example of this.

One thing however that I did enjoy about the film, was it had some cool camera-work at times. Such as extreme rough close-ups of his hands, and a few nice Snorri-cam shots that made the whole thing feel a lot darker for a few moments, which you know I would have appreciated. But these hardly last long enough, or are enough in general to bring the film up from the slump it had already created for itself, and it pretty much just sits for a long time, doing nothing for the audience, just sitting.

Overall, The Lovely Bones just doesn’t work. I think that the project could have been done well as an adult Fairy Tale, a sort of Pan’s Labyrinth kind of thing, but it just doesn’t. The film is too easy on the eyes in the real world, has too many characters we just don’t care about, and just sits about trying to be something that its not. Peter Jackson can be good, but his great fantasy sequences can’t overpower what should be happening in reality, which is nothing. Stanley Tucci is the saving grace here, with an excellently dark performance as the killer that we don’t see enough of, and a few shots that seemed to be from the original cut of the film also make it a tad better. I almost want to give it in the 1-ish out of five zone, but damn if Tucci didn’t give me the creeps every time.

I Give The Lovely Bones A:

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