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These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections — sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent — that happened after I was gone. - Suzie
THE LOVELY BONES is based on Alice Sebold bestselling 2002 novel of the
same name. I’ve never devoured the thing and came into the film back-wards to be
honest. The bad word of mouth it was getting made me weary and being that I’ve
been tapping movies non stop now of late (end of the year catch up), I was in no mood for another ho hum effort. Thankfully, as soon as it began, I got vacuumed in pronto and my gut told me that I was gonna be in for a unique cinematic experience. I was right.
For me, this is PETER JACKSON the way I love him. The LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy didn’t do much for me (just not my thing) and although I enjoyed KING KONG, it was a tad too bloated for its own good. THE LOVELY BONES was Jackson back to HEAVENLY CREATURES territory (my fav film of his BTW); a visually striking, poetic, often stirring and chilling ride. I was in like Flint (whoever that is) the moment I was introduced to the main protagonist Suzie, played fiercely by Saoirse Ronan (she should get an Oscar for this). Sweet, innocent, vibrant, charismatic, Suzie was the daughter I wish I had (if I wanted kids) – I grew fond of her off the bat. The film played it smart via its set up: it slam dunked a semi coming of age story my way, showing the promise in Suzie’s life in terms of her first lovey crush and her ambition and then…BAM… the hammer swung down (she was murdered) and I went down with the ship. Talk about depressing! I was shattered!
From that point on, the movie cranked up its purpose and became something wild and then some, working its magic on a multitude of levels. First, it played out as an exploration of loss, morning, obsession and letting go, and man did it back-hand me stupid. I actually paused the film at a certain point (yeah I got one of them Oscar screeners) to call some loved ones to tell them how much I cared for them – it affected me that much. To say that the fine performances on deck helped bring the impact home would be an understatement. The always gorgeous Rachel Weisz was in top form as usual, Rose McIver was a revelation as the younger sister but it was Mark Walhberg’s intense show that destroyed me. I connected to the man’s pain, sorrow and anger and by default was moved and involved by his plight…big time!
At the same time; the film addressed Suzie’s new digs in the afterlife and what a trip out that was. Jackson doubled down on the eye popping imagery in terms of his design mad and (top notch) CG heavy interpretation of purgatory. Vast colorful skies and fields, a eerie gazebo , spooky forests… actually reminded me of old school heavy metal album covers come to life! Pass the bong! It was one of those! And I really dug the way the environment would morph in accordance to Suzie’s state of mind – great idea, executed with flair. The bit with the boats in the giant glass bottles floored me! WOW! Finally the affair acted as a “nab the killer” opus, serving some creepy ass scene with an unrecognizable and simply amazing Stanley Tucci doing the creepy/menacing nut thing perfectly. I so wanted him to die it wasn’t even funny. Furthermore, his character sparked a couple of genius tension laced bits that put me through the ringer. Suspense works when you care about the characters and the director knows how to execute the beats; The Lovely Bones did that oh so right for me! I was actually standing up in my living room at one point, drowned in anxiousness. Jackson hasn’t lost his horror touch that’s for sure!
Add to all that dazzling camera work by Jackson (the way he blended slow motion, music and cam angles to emotionally stir me was gold), a affecting score by Brian Eno that I must own and the film’s knack at going against the grain story wise and you get a near masterpiece. On the bummer side of things; the tone juggling didn’t always work. For example, when Susan Sarandon popped up, although bang on and funny, she felt out of place. I am assuming Jackson was trying to inject levity in the mix… fair enough – it just didn't work for me. Then there was the afterlife bits, although eye popping, they were kind of just there. Not enough stakes – didn’t move the story forward or focus on Suzie’s inner struggle enough. Those bits also kind of took away from the more gripping real life action that was going on. And was I alone in getting annoyed by that Asian gal in purgatory? She bugged me until her purpose was revealed, and that was near the end. Finally, they could’ve found a better actor to play Suzie’s crush. Didn’t buy the guy!
On the whole, The Lovely Bones was a flawed yes, but mucho striving flick that hit the whore on the head more often than it missed the mark in this jerk’s opinion. It's films like this that remind me WHY I love cinema. Talent oozed out of this one and it aimed high and was not afraid to take chances. You gonna lovely them bones?