Lovely Bones

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Movie Review by Neil Sadler

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci
Director: Peter Jackson

THE LOVELY BONES is a film about a teenage girl who dies prematurely. Sadly the film suffers much the same fate. It seems THE LOVELY BONES has everything going for it. Based on a global bestseller by Alice Sebold and directed by Peter Jackson, Oscar winning director of THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, this should be a technical and emotional masterpiece. So it is sad to report that it isn’t either of these things.

THE LOVELY BONES is the story of Susie Salmon (a superb Sairose Ronan) who is raped and murdered at 14 and watches over her family and friends from another world as they try to cope with her death and find justice.

It isn’t an easy story to tell because you know the main emotional tie is killed early on in the film. Part family drama, part afterlife fantasy and part thriller, THE LOVELY BONES tries to be lots of things and sadly fails more than it succeeds.

It all starts very well. The early scenes as we are introduced to Susie and her family are well handled. Sairose Ronan is a perfect mix of innocence and mischief. Her family is generally well painted in these scenes and one thing Peter Jackson usually does well is take his sweet time to tell a story if it demands it. Surely no one could accuse the man that made KING KONG of rushing a story.

So it is puzzling that this is exactly what happens here. I needed to see more of Susie and her family and get to know them. Later in the film when we are expected to invest and understand their pain, this lack of empathy makes the film rather emotionally empty.

It isn’t helped by Mark Wahlberg as Susie’s father who spends much of the film looking constipated. Rachel Weisz is better but she isn’t helped by a part that we never feel like we understand. It is always difficult to play a character that on many levels is unsympathetic and Rachel Weisz just about manages to conquer the role but I expect a director’s cut of the film will flesh out the earlier scenes.

Apart from Ronan, Stanley Tucci triumphs as a believable pantomime villain, a man with no redeeming characteristics at all. Your skin will crawl every time he is on screen. Susan Sarandon is good comedy relief in a film with few laughs but as with Weisz, you feel that much of her best work was cut from the film.

There is a lot to love about the film. Jackson is an expert at creating other worlds and his ‘heaven’ is beautiful to look at. The ethereal quality of this place and the way it compares with the flat browns and yellows of the world are amazingly evocative. Using imaginative visuals and the music of Brian Eno and the Cocteau Twins/This Mortal Coil, Jackson seems more comfortable in this world of emotions than the one Susie leaves behind. There are many scenes that take your breath away and some strong imagery that lingers well after the film finishes.

So it is not all bad but ultimately this should be a film that makes you care (and cry) but when I cared far more for a giant computerised ape than I did for Susie Salmon and her family, it isn’t the film this story deserved.

4 out of 6 stars