Feb 5, 2010

The Lovely Bones: a Movie Review


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 . . . .”

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Anonymous said...

Somehow this had dog written all over it. I want to see The Last Station.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Did you read the book? Not my favorite, hence am weary of the movie. Thanks for the heads up. Since I don't smoke, I'll wait for the DVD.

PJ said...

Your review gets two spews(thumbs up) of [wine], it's that funny.
I've read other reviews that said it was just awful and I'm not surprised as I remember an interview with Jackson on "The Lord of the Rings", the making thereof, where I realized he didn't have any sense of spirituality. Maybe he thinks we die and go to Candyland? He gives atheists a bad name.

Banjo52 said...

AH, me too on The Last Station.

Brenda, I have not and now probably will not read the book.

Paula, Candyland Heaven sounds about right. Thanks for the two spews, but could I have Guinness next time? Does Jackson claim to be an atheist? What about Alice Sebold? I would have guessed New Age something or other--JeezBudd? Hindistian? Ninth Day Ascentist?

Banjo52 said...

Not that there's anything wrong with those.

And let me re-emphasize, the good parts are really, really good.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Interesting (sadly) that the rape really happened to A;ice Sebold while a student at Syracuse. Just before her attack/rape, another student was raped/murdered/dismembered... hence her book/her haunts all life.

PJ said...

I bracketed the wine - insert prized beverage.

I don't know if Jackson is an atheist but he ain't got no soul. As for Sebold, I don't know her views on faith but I have a feeling she's in agony over this mishap. This is a woman who was brutally raped and her rapist wasn't prosecuted until some years later because she recognized him on the street - makes me want to wretch thinking about that. She believes in letting go and moving forward. You have to have a depth of soul to do that.

Anonymous said...

You mean we don't go to Candyland?

Banjo52 said...

Paula, I'm embarrassed to have missed your brackets. But I got your cool comma on the other post.

Will you or Brenda please explain to AH about Heaven and Candyland? I'm not up to it.

More seriously, I didn't know about Sebold's autobiographical interest in Lovely Bones. Sounds like a dramatic, tough story. It's my impression that the book got a lot more respect than the movie is getting.

She edited Best American Stories 2009, which I'm carrying around, but not reading (for no good reason). So she must have cred where it counts.

PJ said...

When Sebold wrote about her rape she called it "Lucky". The police told her she was lucky because the last woman who was raped in that same place was murdered and dismembered. The Lovely Bones is a tribute to the other victim.

AH, I'm all for Candyland, just not the CGI kind. I think you're still on safe territory.

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