The Lovely Bones

“The Lovely Bones” centers on a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family – and her killer – from purgatory. She must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal. Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci in his Academy Award nominated role, make a cast directed by Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings triology).

Rating: 8 out of 10

Jackson brings us an amazingly multi-dimensional murder story. It looks through the eyes of the dead, a 14-year-old girl murdered by a neighbor, played wonderfully by Tucci who just loses all sense of self in the role. Her father, Walhberg, is on an obsessive hunt, her mother, Weisz, is heart-broken and leaves home, and her surviving brother and sister are alone. But from the other side, Susie, played nicely by Saoirse Ronan, watches and influences the living from purgatory.

Susie can go to heaven if she wants, but chooses to stay, watch and even influence those who she knew to help close the case of her murder. Susie and her family mirror each other, each grieving the loss of Susie — the little girl is angry, she wants revenge, and so does her father and sister. Both are coming to terms with their losses.

This is an exceptional murder mystery/suspense/drama, and it is a nice turn for Jackson, who has spent most of his career with horror, science fiction and fantasy movies. There is a bit of fantasy to this movie, and Jackson’s sense of storytelling and his eye for visual effects comes through, but he didn’t step on the human elements of the story.

Rating: 5 out of 10

I can’t imagine there isn’t one of us that doesn’t wonder or fantasize what life after death might be like.  Is it beautiful?  Will our loved ones be there?  Does heaven exist?  These are extremely profound questions that could explain our very existence in this universe.

Unfortunately, the Lovely Bones is a film that is not clever enough to come close to answering any of them.  The afterlife here is presented as a constantly evolving world where day turns to night, winter turns to spring, and your very surroundings have no stability.  It’s more like a bad acid trip mixed with CGI and represents the weakest part of the film when it should be its strongest.

Now, that’s not to say that “The Lovely Bones” is a complete failure.  Peter Jackson is an extremely talented director and his use of editing and camera work is top notch.  There are also exceptional performances from Wahlberg as the young victim’s father and Tucci as one of the most deplorable characters I’ve seen on screen in quite some time.  But, in the end, (and I’ll warm whoever’s reading this: SPOILERS!!!!!), we never get a sense of justice for death of Susie and the killer’s death is tacked on and forced.  This was the kind of film that had a lot of promise and a ton of squandered talent.

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