The Lovely Bones (2009)

Rating: C-

Dir: Peter Jackson
Star: Saoirse Ronan, Stanley Tucci, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz

Based on a renowned ‘young adult’ novel – probably the only book our daughter will ever admit to enjoying – this was always going to be a difficult nut to crack, even for Jackson. It basically starts with heroine Susie Salmon (Ronan) being murdered by the local paedophile (Tucci), and she narrates the rest of the story from heaven, as her father (Wahlberg) tries to ‘help’ the police solve the case. Not quite your standard Hollywood fare, though overall, the tone is fairly life-affirming, which is an uneasy combination with the subject matter, even if Jackson entirely glosses over the novel’s indication that Susie is raped before being killed, and dismembered afterward.

The afterlife is a strangely day-glo concoction, sparsely populated at best; there’s a girl Susie doesn’t even know meandering around, and that’s it, which seems a strangely antisocial version of heaven, to say the least. While visually interesting, in a What Dreams May Come kind of day, it fails to gel with the rest of the movie. It creates an almost complete disconnect between heroine and everyone else. We hardly get to know her, before she’s swept off, and the potential for character development largely ends at that point. I was also unimpressed with Tucci as George Harvey. Not the performance, but Harvey is such a drooling caricature of a child-molester, he might as well have “Pedo” tattooed on his forehead.

Far from avoiding suspicious, as here, George would be stop #1 for the police, immediately after any incident involving teenage girls in the entire state – as portrated here, he deserves a far worse fate than he receives. What does work, is Ronan’s performance; she has the most amazing eyes, luminous and expressive, that help anchor her performance, and keep the viewer interested, after the charm of the somewhat lurid spectacle has worn off. Unfortunately, the elements never congeal into anything of significance, and after Suzie is consigned to wander heaven alone, the film limps along with little to offer except pretty pictures.