With Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon and Saoirse Ronan; Directed by Peter Jackson; Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving disturbing violent content and images, and some language. 135 minutes.
Readers familiar with Alice Sebold’s novel know that while THE LOVELY BONES is told primarily from the point-of-view of a murdered girl, it is not a murder mystery, but rather the story of the complex relationships that unfold between the survivors of a child’s death. Superficially, “Lord Of The Rings” director Peter Jackson’s film version of it stays faithful to that vision, but the warmth and depth of the story is overwhelmed by the spectacle of a glittery CGI-heaven where too much of the movie is concentrated.
Susie Salmon is played as a shimmering innocent by Saoirse Ronan, almost otherworldly even before she arrives in her transitional heaven where she watches the lives of her harried father (Mark Wahlberg), her mousy mother (Rachel Weisz), her althletic sister (Rose McIver) and her high-fashion, highball- swigging grandmother (played over-the-top by Susan Sarandon).
Her afterlife is still effected by those she left behind – illustrated gorgeously when a flotilla of life-size ships-in-bottles crashes onto the shore of her heaven’s amorphous ocean just as her father destroys his ship-in-a-bottle collection on Earth. She also discovers she has a muted impact on the living world, and attempts to solver her own murder through influencing her father and sister.
Her manipulations happen in a disjointed, non-linear way that result in confusion for anyone in the audience not familiar with the novel. When her sister discovers a crucial piece of evidence just as the killer is leaving town, the storyline abruptly grinds to a halt, displaying maudlin images of her first kiss and her estranged parents’ reunion. Since the only characters that are fully realized are Susie and her neighborly killer Mr. Harvey (nicely underplayed by Stanley Tucci), the ending does not satisfy, and leads one to wonder if Peter Jackson had concentrated less on bubble-gum gothic imagery designed to appeal to “Twilight” fans and more on plot and character development, the end result would be something just as lovely but far less skeletal.•••
Chris Mellen is a poet, a movie lover, popcorn slinger and occasionally reviews a movie every now and then.