For my mom’s birthday my sisters and I wanted to take her out to the movies. I was thinking we’d see something light and fluffy like Leap Year when my 14 year old niece said, "Can I come too? I want to see The Lovely Bones." So it was decided. I was a little surprised that my niece wanted to see this movie. What was the attraction? When I asked her, she gave that very teenage answer: a shrug of the shoulders. I guessed it was because of Saoirse Ronan. There aren’t a lot of films out there with a female protagonist who is the same age as my niece. Plus, Kylie’s been getting really into supernatural and horror films lately and the recent TV ads played up that angle of this film. Then I saw this article in Variety. This new marketing angle was intentional and perfectly suited to snag my niece’s attention!
My sisters, mom and I were cool with the choice because we had all read the book by Alice Sebold all those years ago when it was riding high on the bestsellers lists. In fact, I was thrilled when I first heard that Peter Jackson and his partners were adapting it. Then I felt a little deflated when early reviews were dogging the film. But it’s rare that reviews will stop me from seeing something, especially when I’ve been looking forward to it. I’m more of a word of mouth girl, and some friends of mine, whose opinions I trust, gave it a very good recommendation.
I liked the film. It’s not a perfect, but it’s not terrible either. It has been so many years since I read the book that I can’t remember it well enough to know how much the film deviates, which seems to be a sticking point with many reviewers. I found the film to be haunting, beautiful, emotionally truthful, and at times very, very scary. The performances by the ensemble cast were all well done. Saoirse Ronan gives another performance that is beyond her years and Stanley Tucci proves yet again what a dynamic actor he is. Having this eerie serial killer role in the same year as his lovable husband in Julie & Julia is incredible. Even Mark Whalberg was believable and touching as the dad unable to move on after his daughter’s death.
Peter Jackson portrayed the heartbreak surrounding the murder of a teenage girl, the repercussions felt by her family and friends, the urgency in finding her killer (who incidentally is right under their noses), and the girl’s existence in the “in between” without letting the story becoming maudlin or sensationalized. I know he is getting flak for not implicitly stating or showing that Susie Salmon is raped as well as murdered (as in the book), but I have no problem with this "watered" down version. The story is horrifying enough, without forcing us to watch that onscreen.
After the film was over I asked my niece what she thought. Her reply? "It was weird."