The Lovely Bones (February 24th 2010)
The Lovely Bones seems like an odd film for Peter Jackson to make, much like Heavenly Creatures was in 1994. Instead of being known for oddball splatter films as he was then, he is now known to be the man who made Lord of the Rings and King Kong – two of the more epicly scaled projects of the last decade or so. So where does The Lovely Bones fit into this? It doesn’t. It is really a very small, confined story about one family and one paedophile, and while it uses a lot of CG trickery and other-worldly landscapes, it cannot be compared to Jackson’s previous two films at all.
That is not to say that this film is a mis-step on his part; it is a very well constructed and engaging story, and contains some moments that would rank among the finest of Jackson’s distinguished, and in my opinion unblemished, career so far.
Let’s focus on the CGI landscapes of the “in-between” for a moment.King Kong and, to a lesser extent, the Lord of the Rings trilogy were both criticised for slightly ropey CGI in places, but there are no moments like this in The Lovely Bones. Even the water effects – notoriously difficult to construct – looked fantastic here.
However, as everybody knows, good CGI is far from a backbone to build a film around; a lesson that Roland Emmerich might want to learn from. Thankfully Peter Jackson knows what he is doing when it comes to film-making and there is barely a flaw in this film. Even the casting of Marky Mark is spot-on, and when it comes to finding actresses to lend some emotional weight to your film, you cannot go wrong with Rachel Weisz. I do feel that Saoirse Ronan may be a tad young to carry such a big film, and at times she does seem to over-egg this cake somewhat. Having said that, she certainly isn’t bad, but perhaps she suffers from a slight lack of experience. She does, however, outshine the fairly sidelined love interest, a young man by the name of Reece Ritchie who seems intent on becoming the Asian version of Orlando Bloom, given his ridiculous “I am acting now” voice.
The main attraction to this film, for me, is Stanley Tucci. This guy has been around a while, but this is easily his most impressive role as George Harvey. He underwent something of a physical transformation for this role, and while they do seem to have played up to a fairly stereotyped image of a loner/paedophile, his creepiness really is a winner. Some of the involuntary noises his character makes when interacting with Saoirse’s Susie Salmon are truly disturbing.
As I said way back towards the start of this review, this film contains some of what I would say is Jackson’s best work. A scene where Susie’s little sister Lindsey breaks into Harvey’s house, only for him to return home, is comparable to Hitchcock’s absolute mastery of suspense. The tension is tangible and excruciating, and the thrill of the ensuing chase is joyous. Equally, a scene immediately following Susie’s murder is one of the more horrific things youa re likely to see in a 12A movie. She enters a bathroom that is caked in blood and dirt, with a faceless body in the bathtub. There is little to say that won’t ruin the scene, but it evokes the same feelings as the Pale Man scene in Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.
For all this eulogising, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is a flawless movie. Rest assured, it is not. There is one moment that feels so out of place it could be easily mistaken for a different film. A montage of Susan Sarandon, playing Susie’s grandmother, struggling to get to grips with household chores, accompained by some fairly jaunty music is horrifically out of place in what is otherwise a sombre, serious film. If Jackson was aiming at some sort of tension relief or artful juxtaposition, he really missed the mark here.
Otherwise, The Lovely Bones is a very praiseworthy movie. It is no more than entertainment, but it is told so well that it needn’t be more than this. As long as Peter Jackson keeps making films, I will keep going to see them, because in the simplest terms, he is yet to make a bad one. Rest assured that this film could really be anybody’s cup of tea, and I would recommend to not judge it based on the trailer or the basic concept of it, as it is much more than either of them would suggest. Highly recommended.