Feb 5, 2010
THE LOVELY BONES: B-
Get there on time: The Lovely Bones opens with good story telling—in fact, a gripping 30-45 minutes of murder mystery, after which there will be at least an hour-long coffee break for you because you were wise enough to read this review.
It’s hard to imagine what director Peter Jackson and the other writers were thinking when they inserted all that digital afterlife crap into the endless, tiresome, trite, Harlequin-drenched, dime-store philosophy of a middle. Edge-of-the-seat suspense dissolves into a boring heap of redundant images and soapy talk-overs, during which respectable viewers will go to the john, or hike part of the Appalachian Trail, even if it's night, or just step outside to smoke ‘em if they’ve got ‘em. (The movie’s middle could cause people to take up the fatal habit).
When should the savvy viewer make his break? After the third minute or so in digitized heaven. From there to the beginning of the movie's climax and denouement, it’s a quicksand of the tried and trite, as Peter Jackson and Co. try to use electronics to re-invent Alice’s adventures in the rabbit hole.
Find out what time the final 30 minutes will begin; come back then to be sure you don’t miss the other good stuff. As mysteriously as it disappeared, genuine suspense returns, along with a couple of nice turns against predictability.
If you hadn’t already, you will realize that sinkholes make good symbols. Also, there’s more than one outcome for a bad guy, and I’d never have thought of this one. What an ingenious way to avoid the moral complexity and responsibility of capital punishment. Of course, we could also argue it's an irresponsible gesture at justice, the avoidance of a statement.
The acting is excellent, one more reason not to dismiss the movie out of hand. Young Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) makes a good lead and does as much as anyone could with the schlock she's forced to read in the middle. Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz do just fine as her parents and as Hollywood’s requisite beautiful couple.
In supporting roles, Susan Sarandon delivers once again, adding humanity to Grandma Lynn’s main function as comic relief. Stanley Tucci contributes a spooky dimension in his superb embodiment of the Creepy Psycho; he should be remembered (fondly?) for this role. Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos, Law and Order) is surprisingly believable as a compassionate, yet competent cop. As Susie Salmon’s sister, Rose McIver is much more than eye candy, especially in the last half-hour.
So who knows if you should go? If someone important to you wants to see it, don’t say no too hastily. But take some kind of medication for that middle hour-plus, yet something that leaves your senses intact for the excellent last half-hour. If only this were the 1950s and I could in good faith say, “Pick up an extra pack of Luckies on the way . . . .”