Maybe Alice Sebold’s novel is a different and more worthwhile experience. But not having read it, I’m pondering what the hell I’m supposed to take away from Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of The Lovely Bones. The movie is about a dead 14-year-old (Saoirse Ronan) who is stuck in some sort of purgatory where she can look in on her grieving family, as well as her killer (Stanley Tucci). Why? I’m not sure. Partly to maintain a vague connection to her father (Mark Wahlberg), partly to see justice done to Tucci’s character, and partly just to party in a computer-animated netherworld with some girl named Holly. That I don’t know what the movie’s about is the main reason I don’t like it.
Like all of Peter Jackson’s movies since Return of the King, The Lovely Bones is hideously over-produced. Nearly every camera movement is an elaborate one and Ronan’s holding space is a bloated CGI free-for-all of flowers, mountains, trees, butterflies, ocean waves, and a bunch of other shit drifting in and out of frame, all to the sparse, airy music of Brian Eno. It’s like being trapped in a New Age Hell.
Okay. Let me think of something nice to say about The Lovely Bones… Okay, I’ve thought of a couple. Mark Wahlberg gives a commendable dramatic performance. And Susan Sarandon is kinda funny as Ronan’s boozie grandmother. But you never really get to know any of the characters very well. The only things we really know about Ronan’s character is that she likes to take photographs and she really, really wants to kiss a boy…
Which brings me back to all the things I don’t like about The Lovely Bones. Once Ronan’s character is dead, the single solitary point of the film is to watch characters be sad and confused for an hour. Then the movie almost sorta maybe develops a reason to keep going — we’re led to think maybe the killer will be caught, as Ronan’s father and younger sister both make strides toward that end. But then the movie decides, ‘Nah. We don’t want to go that route.’ Instead, the point of the movie becomes about Ronan arbitrarily deciding to leave her purgatory and go with other murdered children into Heaven. Apparently she was holding onto her family too long and too hard, and maybe revenge isn’t important after all. Um, no. If we’re watching this bullshit for two hours and fifteen minutes, we need some payoff, Peter.
The Lovely Bones ends with Ronan possessing the body of another young girl so she can make out with a hot boy. Only then does she decide to go to Heaven. And the killer? He doesn’t get caught. An ice cycle* falls off a tree and hits him on the cheek, causing him to lose his balance and fall to his death. To find a shittier resolution, you’ll have to watch the final season of Game of Thrones. With Rachel Weisz.
Oscar Nomination: Best Supporting Actor (Tucci)
*Shawn Davenport has pointed out that the spelling of this word should be ‘icicle’, which is indeed correct. She’s such an insufferable know-it-all, I’m leaving it incorrect as an act of open defiance. Nyah.