“From Academy Award winning director Peter Jackson comes the extraordinary story about one girl’s life, and everything that came after. When 14-year-old Susie Salmon was murdered, she left her unfinished life behind. But now from her place in a strange but beautiful in-between world, she must help her father catch her killer and protect her family before she can finally move on.”
“The Lovely Bones” is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving disturbing violent content and images, and some language.
Simply put, “The Lovely Bones” is a dark, depressing film. As a parent, I can’t think of anything more horrific than having a child kidnapped and murdered. I get enough horror in the real world simply watching the daily news. For me, the movies are mostly an escape from reality, not a place to become further depressed and dragged down. Unfortunately, that’s what “The Lovely Bones” did for me. And watching George Harvey lure Susie into his trap is pure torture to watch despite the fact that nothing violent is shown.
I went into this movie knowing that it was about a murdered teenager. Based on the trailers, I thought it was going to show Susie Salmon from the afterlife helping her family catch her murderer. That wasn’t the case. Susie pretty much floats around in the afterlife while her family is torn apart by her disappearance. For a while Rose McIver as Lindsey Salmon suspects George Harvey killed her sister and when she investigates, “The Lovely Bones” is at its best. But, unfortunately, Susie’s family and the audience never really get the closure or justice they hope for and the movie ends on a somewhat unsatisfying note. Is it more realistic? Yes. But it isn’t satisfying.
“The Lovely Bones” is also exceptionally long. It clocks in at over 2 hours running time, but it felt like it could have been about a half hour shorter. You could probably cut some of Susie’s afterlife scenes or the scenes with the family’s mourning and you wouldn’t have lost much. It doesn’t help matters that the audience is already well ahead of the characters in understanding what is going on. We know from the beginning that George Harvey killed Susie. We spend the entire movie waiting for everyone else in the film to catch up with us. Waiting for the movie to break into new territory makes it feel longer than it really is.
My other gripe is the makeup for Stanley Tucci as George Harvey. Tucci is a fantastic actor and perfect in this role, but I could not get over his look. They gave him blue contacts which simply don’t look right. They gave him fake teeth that were very apparent any time he spoke. They gave him a blonde comb-over which didn’t look right either. I can sympathize with Tucci for not wanting people on the street to look at him and associate him with George Harvey, but the makeup was incredibly distracting to me.
On the positive side, Saoirse Ronan is excellent as Susie Salmon. She has a great American accent and manages to strike that perfect balance between being a child and a teenager on the verge of adulthood. We see her arguing with her parents, but alternatively showing maturity beyond her years. She’s a great find for Peter Jackson. Another standout is Rose McIver as Lindsey Salmon. I was amazed at how she played both a young girl and a mature young woman as the years progressed. Her scenes playing cat and mouse with George Harvey are some of the best in the film. Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, and Susan Sarandon are also all excellent, but the movie definitely belongs to the young girls and Tucci.
“The Lovely Bones” is required viewing for anyone that read the book. I don’t know how the two compare, but I imagine anyone that read it would want to see how Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, and Fran Walsh would adapt it. And if you’re in the mood for an emotional, dark drama, then this will definitely fit the bill.
Peter Jackson is known for going all out on the bonus features of his DVDs, and that’s the case on “The Lovely Bones”, too. Rather than having a ton of deleted scenes, featurettes, and other typical extras, Jackson rolls them all into one 3 hour long documentary. It’s longer than the movie itself. You see literally every day of filming. There’s a ton of behind the scenes footage, alternate takes, and more. You also see the deleted scenes from the movie rolled into this documentary. It’s also amusing to see Steven Spielberg visit the set and fluster the cast. Jackson and Boyens offer a lot of insight into the script, the characters, and other more subtle aspects of the movie. Even though I wasn’t a big fan of the movie, I was intrigued by this documentary. It’s also a good lesson on movie making for aspiring filmmakers.