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The Lovely Bones
Genre Fantasy
Year: 2009
 
Review:

The Lovely Bones is directed by Peter Jackson of King Kong and Lord of the Rings fame. However, this fantasy drama and thriller points to some of his earlier work. It doesn't have the epic magnitude of his latest ventures, yet nestles itself in the realm of fantasy. The Lovely Bones tells the story of Susie Salmon, a young girl who is murdered, destined to watch over her family and her killer as she decides between the path of vengeance or healing from heaven above.

It's based on Alice Sebold's novel of the same title and is adapted by Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens and Peter Jackson. The setting is '70s America... an age romantically thought to have been void of life's hidden evils. No one had to lock their doors at night and stranger danger was something that happened in the movies. This was a vibrant, warm time for families as they watched their children grow up in the comfort of their white picket fence neighbourhoods... as they rode bikes and made the most of the sunshine years. However, life for the Salmons happened in a "that could never happen to us" space, one that would catapult the underlying feelings into plain sight as their daughter was whisked away by the darkness.

The Lovely Bones is divided into two dimensions... the reality of Susie in the real world, where photographs capture a moment of life and the other side, where a young girl's imagination determines her heavenly environment. There's very little focus on the transition as Jackson chooses to allude to Susie's tragic murder and rape, instead of exploiting the shock value. He's more concerned with the elemental emotions associated with this eyesore in the family photo album... the missing girl and how she would want her absence to affect those left behind. To this end... it's reminiscent of Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain, echoed by the casting of Rachel Weisz.

The ensemble includes: Saoirse Ronan as Susie, Mark Wahlberg as her father, Rachel Weisz as her mother, Susan Sarandon as her mother's mother and Stanley Tucci as the killer. It's a solid cast with noteworthy performances from Wahlberg and Tucci. Weisz fades into the backdrop with her limited screen time, while Sarandon's "comic relief" character adds an anxious edge to the family's bittersweet legacy. Wahlberg brings a fatherly warmth to his character, who could have easily been his character from Invincible a decade on. Tucci's role could have been dealt with more subtlety, yet his eerie, perverted presence is integral to our disgust towards his character.

The film is imaginative, creating a Twin Peaks murder mystery with an equal mix of charm and creepiness. The heavens around Susie are reflective of her thoughts, symbolically suggesting her emotional state of being. At times, these are captured beautifully and then sometimes they just seem fake, allowing the audience to focus on the CGI instead of the story. This divides the realms successfully, but also serves to separate the film with Susie being the only real go-between. What's more, the rules of these two dimensions is vague as Susie is able to influence situations at one point and appear completely detached at another.

The film's visual instability forces the audience to find visual anchors in the performances, which are by and large inconsistent. The Lovely Bones has an emotive, original and fascinating perspective, which is what drives the film as it shifts between the drama, fantasy and thriller genres. The Lovely Bones is a film most audiences will desperately try to like in all its energy, emotion and ecstasy. Peter Jackson and his writing team convey the story in a visually stimulating way, yet it feels blurred at the edges and slightly redundant at times. Audiences that felt strangely connected to Laura Palmer's murder in Twin Peaks, will have a similar rapport with Susie Salmon's story in The Lovely Bones... despite being a few shades lighter and a few years younger.

The bottom line: Surreal.

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6.00/10 ( 1 Vote )
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