"The Lovely Bones"
Susie Salmon was murdered on her way home from school one afternoon in a time, she says, “before milk cartons when things like that didn’t happen.” She was fourteen.
Now she’s on a confusing trek towards eternity, but only when she matures enough to reconcile what has happened to her -- and come to grips with the limited influence she has on her family’s ability to accept that fate -- can Suzie move forward to heaven. In the meantime, she looks over her family from a kind of limbo watching as her siblings grow-up, her parents grow apart, and her still at-large killer grows impatient when the need to prey rises within him once again.
Jackson’s work was cutout for him. Expectations for Sebold’s book were so high, film rights for the gritty teen narration were secured long before the manuscript was even completed. Sanitizing the story for a mass audience was another matter. Whereas the book never flinches, the film plays it safe. Suzie’s assault, for instance, is more creepy than gruesome, which made some Sebold fans lament that there was “little meat on these bones.” To be fair, given the nature of the material, Jackson strikes a necessary balance pulling it all together with a genuine 70’s feel (helped in no small part by Brian Eno’s score).
Relative newcomer Saoirse Ronan’s knit-capped Susie Salmon is the archetypal 1973 teen and her performance has already earned several award nominations. Mark Walberg and Rachel Weisz co-star but the real standouts are veterans Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci. Sarandon plays Grandma Lynn, a chain-smoking boozer who provides much-needed comic relief and a balance to Tucci’s chilling killer-next-door Mr. Harvey, a departure for the actor whose most recent of sixty film roles was Julian Child’s husband in last year’s Julie & Julia.
The Lovely Bones is an amazing film, but it is not flawless. Mr. Harvey’s comeuppance, for example, is unsatisfying, to be sure, but perhaps the movie’s biggest problem is that it straddles too many genres. It is a drama, a teen romance, a sci-fi thriller and a murder-mystery. Consequently, at times it feels rudderless. If it’s Jackson’s intent to keep us as confused as Suzie Salmon, I can’t say, but what I can say is that this one will definitely give you the “skeevies.”
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