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The UnPopular Opinion: The Lovely Bones

Apr. 9, 2014by: Alex Maidy

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

We have done a lot of critiques about Peter Jackson in this column. My predecessor lauded the divisive KING KONG while I slammed THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY. Overall, I truly love the work Jackson has put out before and after THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Everything from the classic DEAD-ALIVE and the astounding HEAVENLY CREATURES to even the insanity of BAD TASTE and THE FRIGHTENERS. But, if you were to look at a single non-Tolkien film as a highlight of his career it would have to be THE LOVELY BONES.

Based on the bestselling novel by Alice Sebold, THE LOVELY BONES is a fantasy grounded in a dream-like reality. But, it also afforded Peter Jackson the opportunity to stretch his muscles in a way that did not involve creature designs or innovative technology for simulating massive battle sequences and large scale destruction. Rather, THE LOVELY BONES is the most intimate film he has directed since HEAVENLY CREATURES. In fact, if HEAVENLY CREATURES were to be made today with the budgets Jackson gets now, it likely would have looked a lot like THE LOVELY BONES.  But Jackson manages to control himself and not give in to excess which results in a film that channels emotion viscerally with enhanced effects to drive home the fantastic tale.

Hey Susie, say hi to your mother for me.

To start, Peter Jackson has always managed to pull together actors who deliver stellar performances.  Throughout his filmography are countless performers both established and new that are challenged to act in a way that may not be the norm.  Jack Black turned in a more nuanced performance than his typical broad comedy in KING KONG while  Andy Serkis revolutionized the art of motion capture acting.  Here in THE LOVELY BONES, Jackson is able to capture stellar turns from Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, and Michael ImperioliSaoirse Ronan once again shows that she is not going to remain a child actress but will continue to grow into a stellar adult actor as well, but it is Stanley Tucci who steals the entire film as the terrifying George Harvey.

There was contention when the trailer was released for THE LOVELY BONES that it revealed Tucci's role as Susie's killer to easily.  Having not read the novel until after seeing the film, I was fine with the reveal as the point of THE LOVELY BONES is not a mystery but rather a meditation on loss and life.  That sounds like New Age hogwash, but it is true.  Like the Robin Williams film WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, THE LOVELY BONES is a very serious film wrapped with beautiful and ethereal visuals.  But there is a lot of darkness in the movie.  The anger that Mark Wahlberg's character feels as he searches for his daughter's killer popped up again when I watched Hugh Jackman in last year's PRISONERS.  While that movie was a lot more intense than THE LOVELY BONES, they share a thematic connection: what does loss do to a family struggling to cope?  We lauded PRISONERS for being an unflinching portrait of such a loss and we should regard THE LOVELY BONES in the same way.

I liked this scene better when it was my Windows XP wallpaper.

It is hard to call Susie's perspective in THE LOVELY BONES as original as deceased narrators have existed almost as long as fiction has. Even WHAT DREAMS MAY COME and GHOST offered similar narrative devices, but Peter Jackson manages to use his skills with special effects to create the afterlife without overindulging. While the recent HOBBIT films have used CGI to a fault, THE LOVELY BONES captures the unreality of Susie's purgatory without making it into a cartoon world.  Some criticisms of the film said that Jackson failed to break any new ground visually and I could not agree more.  But, THE LOVELY BONES was not meant to be a technology defining film.  Jackson used his paintbrush rather than bricks and mortar with the special effects, creating something lush and otherwordly.  Heaven and the afterlife are painted differently by every person and this is how Jackson interpreted Alice Sebold's words from the novel.

But that is only half of the film.  The part grounded in the real world where Susie is a corpse in the ground is a haunting and shocking place that is not easy to witness.  Even if you were to remove all scenes from Susie's afterlife, THE LOVELY BONES would have made a stark and unsettling drama.  The sequence featuring Susie's sister Lindsey (Rose McIver) investigating George Harvey's home are thrillingly paced and shot.  There is constantly a wanting and hoping through the film that justice will be served and all wrongs will be put right, but that is not the point of THE LOVELY BONES.  There is no legal justice in this story, rather only emotional healing from all the characters.  The fate of George Harvey is one that may have left some cold but furthers the point that this tale is not meant to set wrongs right but show how we cope with devastation.

Why does anyone trust single middle-aged men with glasses and mustaches?  They are always serial killers.  Always.

Brian Eno's score highlights the different settings, both physical and spiritual, in THE LOVELY BONES which simultaneously puts us into the 1970s and outside of time, giving the movie a timeless quality.  There is no need for the bombast score we heard in KING KONG or THE LORD OF THE RINGS, but Eno is still able to provide a memorable soundtrack to the story.  It also amplifies the fact that Peter Jackson's directing style, while distinct, can accomodate a wide array of styles.  We have become so used to hearing the iconic Howard Shore music associated with Jackson that it is hard not to notice Eno's approach to accenting the scenes in THE LOVELY BONES.  But, like the movie, it almost feels like the score has been overshadowed and forgotten by film fans.

It is difficult to say that THE LOVELY BONES is the most complex adaptation that Peter Jackson has undertaken considering that THE LORD OF THE RINGS is incredibly dense with history and language, but Alice Sebold's novel is by far the most emotionally intricate and thematically challenging project Jackson has ever undertaken.  It would be amiss if movie fans did not experience THE LOVELY BONES in favor of Jackson's larger scale projects because, quite possibly, THE LOVELY BONES is the most epic tale he has ever translated to the big screen.  It is a human story, one which is not easy for most to experience since it deals with violence, death, and pain, but those are all basic human experiences.  Jackson found a way to take those and tell a story that deserved to be told with the filter of a master filmmaker.  THE LOVELY BONES is a painful movie to watch, but in the best way possible.  You cannot leave the film without needing to ask yourself some deep-seeded questions about belief and any movie that makes you question yourself has done it's job.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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7:06AM on 04/09/2014

I don't know this is that unpopular

It's a good movie, and seeing how much time and resources Tolkien adaptations have taken out of Peter Jackson, this was a nice respite. The acting is great - I'm not sold on the visuals all the time, but most of it works. This is a solid film. It's worth seeing just for the sheer force of Ronan and Tucci's performances alone. Without giving too much away - it spends less time on the stereotypical serial killer movie scenes, and much more appropriately focuses on the viewpoints of those affected.
It's a good movie, and seeing how much time and resources Tolkien adaptations have taken out of Peter Jackson, this was a nice respite. The acting is great - I'm not sold on the visuals all the time, but most of it works. This is a solid film. It's worth seeing just for the sheer force of Ronan and Tucci's performances alone. Without giving too much away - it spends less time on the stereotypical serial killer movie scenes, and much more appropriately focuses on the viewpoints of those affected.
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9:54AM on 04/09/2014

loved it and did red the novel before hand

The movie omits a lot...the mother and detective have an affair. That said, I thought Jackson captured perfectly the tone through the beautiful visuals. Brian Eno's score was incredible in the after life scenes. Ronan was fantastic in this film. The stand out though was tucci who was so creepy and sinister. That scene where Susie sees tucci in the bath tube, sink red with blood, and a look of emptiness on his face was downright creepy and haunting.
The movie omits a lot...the mother and detective have an affair. That said, I thought Jackson captured perfectly the tone through the beautiful visuals. Brian Eno's score was incredible in the after life scenes. Ronan was fantastic in this film. The stand out though was tucci who was so creepy and sinister. That scene where Susie sees tucci in the bath tube, sink red with blood, and a look of emptiness on his face was downright creepy and haunting.
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2:02PM on 04/09/2014

9/10

I've only watched it once, but I thought it was great and I didn't understand the hate against it.
I've only watched it once, but I thought it was great and I didn't understand the hate against it.
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1:31PM on 04/09/2014

2 stars out of 5.

Here's my review: [link]
Here's my review: [link]
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11:24AM on 04/09/2014
The Lovely Bones is a very good film, but it's also a tough film to watch as well. It's so depressing and frustrating to watch sometimes because of the characters actions.

The visuals were beautiful and Tucci and Ronan really gave powerhouse performances. My favorite scene is when Wahlberg's character finally realizes that Tucci's character killed his daughter and how he breaks down while trying to break down his door. Just real good dramatic stuff.
The Lovely Bones is a very good film, but it's also a tough film to watch as well. It's so depressing and frustrating to watch sometimes because of the characters actions.

The visuals were beautiful and Tucci and Ronan really gave powerhouse performances. My favorite scene is when Wahlberg's character finally realizes that Tucci's character killed his daughter and how he breaks down while trying to break down his door. Just real good dramatic stuff.
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11:03AM on 04/09/2014
I'm completely indifferent to it. Didn't love it, didn't hate it.
I'm completely indifferent to it. Didn't love it, didn't hate it.
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10:22AM on 04/09/2014
I prefer The Wonderful Kirk, The Perfect Spock or even The Bonnie Scotty.
I prefer The Wonderful Kirk, The Perfect Spock or even The Bonnie Scotty.
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10:11AM on 04/09/2014
There's movies that I like that got poor reviews, specifically dramas. To each their own, and everyone has their own opinion. But 90% of those movies that had bad reviews that I like, I can still completely agree with the film's criticisms and flaws. I agree they are still there. A bad example is Avatar - I agree with all the criticisms, but I liked the movie. Something ab it and others worked for me. That's not the case here. There are a LOT of very specific flaws in this movie.
There's movies that I like that got poor reviews, specifically dramas. To each their own, and everyone has their own opinion. But 90% of those movies that had bad reviews that I like, I can still completely agree with the film's criticisms and flaws. I agree they are still there. A bad example is Avatar - I agree with all the criticisms, but I liked the movie. Something ab it and others worked for me. That's not the case here. There are a LOT of very specific flaws in this movie. Some things are professionally done incredibly well. If the dreamy look of the movie cancels that out and u can enjoy it? Good for you. But I think to really argue that this is just an overall good movie and not be able to acknowledge the truth in some of the film's criticisms (to an extent, a criticism of a certain point of a movie isn't so much of an opinion when you point out specifics - like an old and recycled plot from Avatar. You can really prove that), then, I gotta say, you really aren't an intelligent movie goer, and don't know how to analyze a film "correctly." Go to film school if you don't know what I mean. There's a way to analyze, and pay attention to lots of other things besides the explosions and attractive editors. This movie isn't the worst, and it's got some good qualities, but it's pretty fucking bad.
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8:46AM on 04/09/2014
"I liked this scene better when it was my Windows XP wallpaper" - Hahahaha. That is spot on. Regarding the movie, it's actually not a bad movie.
"I liked this scene better when it was my Windows XP wallpaper" - Hahahaha. That is spot on. Regarding the movie, it's actually not a bad movie.
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