16 January 2010

Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones" - A Review

by guest columnist Michael Wendt.  Follow him on Twitter.

I first came to learn about The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold almost by accident. You see, right after college I found it difficult to find film work, so I took a job at a movie theater. I had a co-worker who was always scheduled in the box office. She told me how much she loved working in the box office because she could catch up on her reading. More often than not, she would ask to leave early because of "migraines". On one such occasion, she happened to leave in such a hurry that she left behind the book that she had been talking about so much. Needless to say, I picked up the book and instantly became engrossed in it and immediately started to wonder when the film adaptation would hit the screen. When I learned Peter Jackson was planning to make the film, I felt it was inspired, not due to his brilliant work in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but from his 1994 film Heavenly Creatures which he showed he was able to mix fantasy with harsh reality.

The story follows a 14-year-old girl named Suzie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), who comes from a tight-knit suburban family and is brutally murdered, then watches over her family and her killer (Stanley Tucci) in the "in-between", a place set between Heaven and Hell. Her father (Mark Wahlberg) and her Mother (Rachel Weisz) soon find themselves at odds while they try to move on and solve the case. Ronan and Tucci are particularly good here, she but a very young age shows she has a lot of talent and will be around for quite sometime and Tucci, almost becomes unrecognizable as he immerses himself into his character.  In fact, I felt that mostly all of the performances in the film were well done, with what each character was given.

I was really impressed by the technical credits here; cinematography and set decoration are among the standouts. However, my disappointment in the film was in Jackson's choice to over-emphasize special effects sequences when it came to "the in-between," and while some of it looks very beautiful, I felt these sequences prolonged the film and that ultimately, the film worked best when the action took place in the real world.

There are other moments in the film, such as an extended light-hearted sequence featuring Susan Sarandon, who plays the Grandmother, that didn't fit the mood of the film. It's as if Jackson felt that with all the negative happenings in the film, he needed to add a little more happiness to the film. At times, the tonal shifts in the film didn't quite work. I started to wonder if these tonal shifts resulted from the want to get a PG-13 rating, which would equal better box office. I'd be interested to hear a commentary from Jackson to get his thoughts on changing things tonally, but alas it will have to wait for another day.

All those things considered, I felt overall that while the film adaptation didn't live up to the visions of the book I had hoped to see on the screen, there are still many elements that make the film a good mystery.

Rating **1/2 out of **** 

Michael Wendt is a Cleveland-based Actor, Producer, and Director.  His recent works include the documentary The End of the World As We Knew It which has played at several Film Festivals, as well as acting in the romantic omedy The Bride & The Grooms which had a limited release around the country last year. When not working on film projects, you can probably find him frequenting the movie theater or hitting a karaoke bar!


Tyler Weaver said...

Great review, Mike. Thanks for agreeing to review it this weekend!

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