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The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

PETER Jackson’s adaptation of Alice Sebold’s acclaimed but difficult novel The Lovely Bones is one of the most crushingly disappointing movies of the year.

Stripped of the emotional complexity and richness of character that made the novel so appealing, it’s a misjudged approach to the challenging subject matter that has to rate as a major misfire from the usually reliable director.

As with the novel, the film picks up as teenager Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is groomed and then raped and murdered by her neighbour George Harvey (Stanley Tucci).

Stuck in the afterlife, Susie then watches as her parents (Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz) attempt to cope with her loss, while her sister (Rose McIver) comes of age and Mr Harvey attempts to get away with his horrid act.

She also attempts to influence the investigation into her murder by attempting to point her father in the right direction, in spite of the sceptical approach of the local police detective (Michael Imperioli).

In novel form, The Lovely Bones was a strange but deeply moving piece of work that somehow managed to make you feel uplifted and hopeful in spite of the downbeat subject matter.

But given the nature of Susie’s time in the afterlife and the subject of child rape and murder, it was always going to be a difficult thing to replicate on the screen.

No one could have guessed just how wrong Jackson, who has previously done excellent (even Oscar-worthy) work with The Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong, would get things.

By choosing to spend a lot of time with Susie, the director burdens himself with having to create an afterlife that convinces when, sadly, it doesn’t in spite of the striking imagery the director throws at you.

Rather, such filmic indulgences come at the expense of character and several of the book’s key personnel are reduced to also-rans in cinema form.

Imperioli’s detective is wasted, Weisz’s mother is a shadow of her novel self, and Mark Wahlberg’s father also comes up short when compared to his written counterpart.

McIver does some good work as Susie’s younger sister, displaying some nice grit as she begins to suspect her neighbour as a suspect, but Susan Sarandon’s comic relief grandmother – while nicely played – feels at odds with the overall tone of proceedings.

British actor Reece Ritchie, meanwhile, is appalling as Susie’s former love interest who somehow [and inexplicably] remains connected to her after her death.

Jackson’s film stops short of being a complete disaster by virtue of Ronan’s sensitive portrayal of Susie (all confusion, angst and anger), and by Tucci’s dazzling portrayal of the Mr Harvey, which is worthy of his Oscar nomination.

The ’70s look of proceedings is also nicely realised, while Brian Eno’s soundtrack is a nice addition.

Indeed, the production values are as high as you might expect from a Jackson creation.

But fans of the novel may be alarmed at just how far removed from the source material Jackson’s film ends up, failing to do justice to either the considerable talents of its all-round cast or the emotional complexity inherent in Sebold’s text.

The 12A certificate, meanwhile, offers a further clue to the way in which Jackson has taken the adult material and diluted its overall impact – although some scenes will still disturb.

The overall result is a film that falls considerably short of the huge expectation surrounding it. What should have been a masterpiece, has ended up a complete mess.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 135mins
UK DVD and Blu-ray Release: June 28, 2010