Movie review: The Lovely Bones

Posted by Bel. The time is 4.23pm here in Wellington, NZ.

You know what? I had half-written a rather level headed review of Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones. I acknowledged the fractious process of adaptation and the importance of regarding a story within its own medium. But you know what? No. Not even.

The Lovely Bones sucks. It's a sucky movie, made worse because it is a sucky adaptation of a pretty great book.

It doesn't know if it's a crime thriller or a teen fantasy or some kind of melodramatic family drama. The script neglects key themes of the original novel, leaving you with characters who do inexplicable things or who are inexplicably boring.

Hence, it's filled with tedious performances, whilst you only get glimpses of star turns. Yes, I mean you, o wonderous and photogenic Saoirse Ronan, and you, o joyous scene-stealer Susan Sarandon - thank the computer generated heavens. You two did what you could - but it would never be enough to save this film from a terrible fate: mediocrity.

Clockwise: 1) Teenage fantasy romance scene: Susie loves being in The Inbetween and doesn't give a crap about her grieving family.
2) Family drama crime thriller scene: Susie's dad, Susie's dad's wig and Susie's mum grieve very much for their daughter, whilst not doing much each occasionally asking the useless community police constable if there's been any clues. (Spoiler: no!)
3) Fantasy crime thriller scene: Susie's dad freaks out a bit when Susie tries to communicate with him and also he sees his reflection.
4) Fantasy Weta Workshop jerk-off scene: take that, James Cameron!

Things that Peter Jackson can do:
  • Sweet special effects. The special effects in this are pretty sweet.
  • Tall, skinny buildings. There is a lighthouse in this which looks pretty good and is only vaguely reminiscent of Sauron's tower. Maybe they recycled the model and just made it a bit different? Like they did with Mount Ruapehu/Mount Doom for LOTR?
  • Scary bearded men. LOTR had many of them, in The Lovely Bones, the main guy is one. Perhaps PJ was one of those children scared of Santa.
Things that Peter Jackson cannot do:
  • Love, romance or sexual tension of any kind. The meet-cute for Susie and Ray is worse than any scene between Aragon and Arwen or Sam and Frodo. It is awful. Excruciating. Cringe-worthy. And not just because of Ray's floating-head inducing skivvy and spiral perm:
Seriously, WTF? Isn't he supposed to be Indian?

This is a bad thing is a movie which is based on a book which hinges on the main character's love and longing keeping her in a state of limbo, unable to let go of a life she feels she hasn't yet lived to the fullest.

Things that managed to happen anyway, despite Peter Jackson's ineptitude:
  • Susan Sarandon went 'fuck this, I'm gonna have me a good time' and set about stealing every bit of limelight possible. She then disappears from the third act of the film. I wish they had just cut in a shot of her passed out behind the couch, you totally would have bought it.

Things that annoyed me most about this sucky film (SPOILERS ABOUND):
  • They took out the bit about the mum having the affair with the police detective, okay, fair enough, time constraints, whatever. I'm not mad because he was played by Michael Imperioli AKA Christopher off Sopranos for whom I still mourn, no. I'm mad because they then changed it to being that the mum just decides to up and leave her family (wee boy, teenage girl whose sister just got mysteriously murdered, messed up husband) and they have this shot of her fruit picking. And they didn't have the family react to her abandonment in any way. They all carried on just as before! And then she comes back and there is no reaction to that either!!
    I would have thought they could at least have someone kicking her in the shins for being such a selfish bitch.

  • They also cut out or trimmed down a whole bunch of other characters, the "lovely bones" as Susie explains it, those who grow up around the space she left behind. With this script's heavy focus on the isolated serial killer at the expense of those others, it seems it was more the "loathsome one".
    The worst for me was the way they made Ruth into this random 'weirdo chick' with seemingly little connection to the story, occasionally frowning in a psychic kind of way and then showing up as girlfriend-of-Ray at the end. I can't imagine how the whole transdental body swapping thing would have made any sense at all for a viewer who hadn't read the book.

  • The complete lack of any reference whatsoever to rape. No one says it. Not even once.

  • When the weirdo body swap thing happens at the end, how they totally wussed out of making it a proper sex scene. In the book, when Susie turns her back on heaven in order to have a few moments on earth with Ray, her intention is to indulge physically in enjoying her body with him, with the emotional release that this will bring for her. Alice Sebold's text explicits refers to them having sex together (in the shower, on the couch, in the bedroom) and even makes mention of Susie's reclaiming of sex and of the penis as a (not) weapon, moving from victimhood to an understanding of sexuality in a context of love and sharing and what sounds like some hot raunchy fun.
    In the movie, we get to see them gazing into each other's eyes, then it goes to another scene, then when it cuts back, they are lying fully dressed on the bed. We don't even get treated to the standard Hollywood L-shaped sheet.
    This kind of links back to my point about 'RAPE? AYE? WHAT? NOT HERE. NOTHING TO SEE. MOVE IT ALONG.' but in general, I find it weird that they weren't willing to give her a hint of sexuality or adult passion.
Okay. I could go on. But I will stop now. For my own sanity, let alone yours.

I should have put this link at the top, but my Number #2 Film Critic Girl Crush,'s Stephanie Zacharek has a brilliantly scathing review here which you should have read instead of this. She mentions that Lynn Ramsay (Morvern Callar) was originally attached to this project - oh what might've been!

3 thoughts on “Movie review: The Lovely Bones”

  1. I woke up to the mum turning up back home and the non-sex scene. Due to the zzzzz factor I didn't know they had not mentioned the rape element. This is particularly fucken weird and offensive seeing as the author's own experience of rape was the inspiration for the book.