James Cameron wasn’t the only director making an anticipated return to the screen this year. Peter Jackson’s last film the 2005 King Kong, although well regarded was seen as more of a remake than a true “Jacksonite” adaptation so The Lovely Bones was inadvertently seen as his first film since the blockbuster films about middle earth. Like The Lord of the Rings it was an adaptation of a novel and like The Lord of the Rings Jackson wrote it with partnering scribe Philipa Boyd. It centres on a young girl – Susie Salmon, who after being raped and murdered by a neighbour tries to find peace in the “in-between” between heaven and earth as her family simultaneously tries to cope with her death.
Obviously, The Lovely Bones is not your typical drama. I’ve not read the source, but with a premise like that we can see that it’s more than just your typical familial drama, one with a supernatural twinge. And in some ways I suppose that Jackson is the perfect one to helm a project that seems to be so ostensibly incongruous. I liked The Lovely Bones. I should just get that out of the way immediately. Try as I might I could not ignore the dismal reviews. Nathaniel, Rasco, Alex were all less than forthcoming with praise. Jose was more obliging and MGK was a fan as was Kristopher. I didn’t know where I would fall, I was still anticipating this despite the reviews and coming out of it I knew it was not perfect, but I was not disappointed.
Saiorse Ronan, of Atonement fame, plays Susie. With her piercing blue eyes and her clear voice I’m tempted to call Ronan’s performance my favourite child performance of the last decade, and maybe even the one before that. The strength of The Lovely Bones lies completely in her hands and she handles it beautifully. Her performance is so self conscious and it truly is surprising considering how much she’s tasked with. She has to spend the entire film looking fourteen but growing years more and it all needs to be realistic as possible. This wasn’t going to be an easy task, but Ronan is able to deliver an especially profound performance that counteracts any of the films possible inconsistencies.
The acting of the cast is generally good, although none is as good as Ronan. Much has been said of the reportedly underused Susan Sarandon, and as Susie’s Grandmother she is particularly scintillating in her scenes. In a category where insubstantial performances like Holly Hunter, Michelle Williams, Frances McDormand and Kathy Bates have been recognised I’m confused as to why Sarandon hasn’t gotten more notices for her performance. Looking as unsullied as she did a decade ago Sarandon is charming and resonant in her role. Rachel Weisz all but matches her, and although she is relegated to a mere prop as the film winds down her performance [particularly in the first forty minutes] is especially profound. I don’t find Wahlberg as underwhelming as some. Certainly, he’s not as talented as his co-stars, but there is only so much that could be done with such a role. Wahlberg is not ineffective, just unremarkable. Tucci wouldn’t make my shortlist of Supporting Actors but I can’t fault his performance, as unsubtle as it is. In a strange way it works.
In fact, I can’t fault The Lovely Bones for its lack of subtlety. A film that centres on a young girl trapped between heaven and earth needs to be as clear as possible. In fact, I see The Lovely Bones as a bit of a fairy tale. Susan Salmon [like the fish she says] is projecting her thoughts on to the screen. We only find the moustached Stanly Tucci as overbearingly histrionic because we know up front he’s the murderer. A subtle serial killer wouldn’t have caught the attention of Susie’s sister, and would negate the culmination of the film. The Lovely Bones is the type of film I can see being lauded in the next generation even though being poorly received in this one. It is not a perfect film, but it’s as good as it could have gotten. I don’t think anyone taking this story could have done a more superior job than Jackson. I finished The Lovely Bones having the same feelings I did after seeing Cheri – what is that people are missing? I can’t say why The Lovely Bones hasn’t succeed, it’s not The Lord of the Rings, it’s perhaps not even the masterpiece some have called. But it is a good film. A very good film. Its lovers are few, but I’m one of them. Sorry, Alex.
So I didn't like Up In the Air, but liked this...interesting.