Mini Reviews of ‘Invictus’ and ‘The Lovely Bones’ from an Industry Insider

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Saoirse Ronan in The Lovely Bones
Photo: Paramount Pictures

I don’t think I have done this more than a couple times, but that’s primarily due to the fact I am never convinced of the authenticity of reader reviews, or they just aren’t up to par. However, when a recent industry insider shot over some well thought out opinions without any spoilers for Clint Eastwood’s Invictus and The Lovely Bones I just couldn’t resist.

First for the comments that were sent in followed by some words by myself.

So, after seeing The Lovely Bones and Invictus today, and with Nine only left to see, I still think it’s the year for Up In the Air or, depending on how the run goes, perhaps Precious for Best Picture.

Lovely Bones is certainly an interesting piece of cinema, inventive at times and then very creepy at times, but it’s one of those movies that might be too creative for its own good. There were many times I wasn’t sure if I was watching an other-worldly fantasy film or a creepy, earthly drama. And of course it’s both of those things, but the violence will turn-off many viewers and others I think will have a problem with such a creative treatment of such a difficult topic. Tucci is particularly good, as are most of the leads. I guess with ten films and all the money Paramount will throw at it you’ve got to keep it on the list, but I’d be really surprised to see it win more than some technical awards and/or for Tucci.

And then Mr. Eastwood’s Invictus… Ugh, where to start. Well first off, going in we were told this still might not be the final version. And at 131 minutes and with all the plot lines he has going, any reduction in time makes this a better film.

Overall, I just don’t think the film ever reaches the emotional climax Eastwood wants it to. Certainly there’s a big Rugby match — and they win — but he must spend 30 minutes on the final match alone, with game footage, footage of Mandela in his box, of Damon’s family in the stands, of the mixed-race security detail symbolically meshing as one, of a young boy outside the stadium cheering with police, of people gathered around TV’s in like five different places… and it’s from one to another to another over and over again.. and it really just doesn’t work that well.

Leading up to that point, there are terrific moments, powerful moments, but also some very awkward moments where the script has characters explaining things that might have worked better as title graphics. Damon isn’t given enough room to really shine though he’s more than up for the role, and while I know there will be plenty of big Morgan Freeman supporters for his role, I think he might also find some detractors. His performance seems very uneven to me, not that he can’t act the part, but perhaps not given enough direction.

It’s all a bit inert and in its present form, it just seems to miss the mark. One could go back and practically remove the entire security-detail sub-plot. Since there’s never an assassination attempt, it adds up to a whole lot of nothing, and [its removal would] greatly strengthen the movie.

It’s Clint and Morgan and the respect they carry will, of course, open the movie on the 11th, but with a slew of films at Christmas including expansions of Up In the Air, Nine, Bones, and new films like Sherlock Holmes and It’s Complicated, Invictus could be this year’s Frost/Nixon.

Now I have no idea when I will be seeing Eastwood’s Invictus, but I have A Single Man this Sunday, The Young Victoria and Up In the Air next Tuesday, Brothers on the 30th, The Lovely Bones on December 1st and Nine on the 8th. So, my schedule for seeing Oscar contenders is filling up fast.

This past week I saw Everybody’s Fine and Me and Orson Welles. I don’t see anything for De Niro with Everybody’s Fine, but I thought Christian McKay was phenomenal in Me and Orson Welles and it’s upsetting more Oscar bloggers aren’t championing his performance as the iconic actor/director.

Finally, if you want more Lovely Bones, I have just added two new stills to the gallery which you can check out right here. The Lovely Bones and Invictus hit theaters on December 11.