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The Lovely Bones (2009)

2009 film adaptation of the novel of the same name, directed by Peter Jackson.

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Fails As A Study of Emotional Burden

  • Apr 30, 2010

Mainstream fans would remember Pater Jackson for his critically acclaimed “Lord of the Rings Trilogy” and “King Kong” while old-school horror fans may remember him for “Dead Alive”. It would only be natural to have high expectations for any Peter Jackson directed film because well…he does have a good resume. Well, Jackson has made successes with movies about monsters, beasts and even blood and gore; this time around, Jackson tries his hand with a film about a different kind of monster…the human serial killer type with “The Lovely Bones”.
My friends @Count_Orlok_22 and @Sean_Rhodes have warned me that this movie is real bad, but I gave it a shot anyway. Please keep in mind that I haven’t read the award-winning book written by Alice Sebold so this is a review coming from a viewpoint that has no idea exactly what the source material is all about. 

         Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon in "The Lovely Bones."

                       Tanley Tucci as George Harvey in "The Lovely Bones."
Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is a bright young 14 year old who has the same issues in school; she has a crush, she has a hobby and is trying to embark on her first kiss. One day on her way home from school, Susie is diverted by her neighbor, George (Stanley Tucci) to check out an underground hideaway built for kids that he built. Drawn into this deathtrap, Susie’s spirit lingers between this life and the next; while she watches her parents Jack and Abigail (Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz) grieve, her grandmother (Susan Sarandon) act like a young woman thirsty for booze with her sister Lindsey (Rose McIver) tries to get on with her life. Years pass, Lindsey and her father begin to suspect that something is off with George, as Susie tries to reach out from the grave to find justice…
Let’s see, one can undoubtedly suspect that with Peter Jackson at the helm, one can expect that a film adaptation of any novel would have the same sensibilities he had established with “Lord of the Rings” and “King Kong”. Well, one would be close to the truth as the film is a visually stunning feast of the afterlife according to Jackson, as the viewer is taken to the world that Susie wanders around. Jackson does make the use of several symbolisms that represent Susie’s idea of the afterlife and her transition to purgatory and from purgatory. The film plays like a fable and almost like a dark fairy tale that goes into the concept of life and death, the emotional effects of yearning and the goal for personal closure. The film is beautiful with lush cinematography that makes use of bright colors and stylized special effects. Now the film’s positives may prove to be also the film’s main flaw. 

          Mark Wahlberg as Jack Salmon and Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon in "The Lovely Bones."

                           Mark Wahlberg as Jack Salmon in "The Lovely Bones."
The visuals did overrun the film and dictated the film’s screenplay. I thought that the screenplay was severely downplayed in favor of making the movie a little too ‘safe‘. The emotions were there, as Susie’s parents were indeed left a wreck after her death; but it never hits a home run as the focal point of the film’s narrative. Jackson was so busy trying to show his vision of this ‘purgatory’ that he forget one essential rule to essential filmmaking--letting the characters breathe and achieve a life of their own. I see the Salmon family grieve and yet the scenes didn’t have the power to follow through with the emotions. The film also suffers a little as Jackson tries to change the film’s mood and tone when Jack and Lindsey begin to suspect George; as the viewer becomes privy to his past. There are some graphic scenes of death but they weren’t the kind that could turn most viewers away. I am not sure, but the film’s script felt really compromised that for a film that is supposedly about a very bleak and unsettling premise (the murder of a child and possible molestation), the style of the film just didn’t feel right.

               Rachel Weisz as Abigail Salmon in "The Lovely Bones."

                         Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon in "The Lovely Bones."
So I guess you may say that the film isn’t about child molestation and murder but rather one’s yearning for justice in the afterlife, and this may indeed be so. But certain things about ‘purgatory’ and the appearance of one’s own personal feel of the afterlife, requires a leap of faith from its viewers, that one should buy into this vision of limbo. I guess Jackson tried something different, but for me, I just wasn’t able to buy into this area of the story.
Characterization is a little weak but Ronan does come out with a decent performance as Susie Salmon. I liked the fact that she was portrayed as anything but another ‘angry ghost’ but this feeling sure left me in a hurry after I see that scene with the ‘first kiss’ which just felt out of place. Wahlberg does feel out of his element as the father but thankfully Weisz and Sarandon manages to get my attention that I was able to look pass any weaknesses in the performances. McIver was good as Lindsey given her limited screen time, and the young woman (Carolyn Dando) who could see ghosts was a severely underdeveloped plot device. The dialogue did also feel rather obligatory and predictable; and some elements felt a little too convenient and rushed. There were also several scenes that just felt out of place given the film’s supposed black premise.
I am not sure just how I feel about “The Lovely Bones”. Jackson tries to make a tale about yearning and emotional burden; that despite trials, life goes on. I am not sure, but it feels almost like “The 70’s Show” colliding with “What Dreams May Come”. I guess the intentions of the movie was to be a little more commercial and mainstream, but there is just no way that something as bleak and frightening as child murder should be downplayed in favor of “hope” after “loss”. The film just drowns in dull, forced emotional poignancy that fails as a grand exposition of the material and the immaterial, of the yearning and the burden of emotions in which it fails miserably. The film isn’t terrible but I cannot say that there is at least one scene really memorable. “The Lovely Bones” is worth seeing once.
RENTAL [2 ½ Stars]

HYPE LEVEL: With an award-winning book as its source material, Peter Jackson's impressive resume, the film has a lot of HYPE going for it. It fails to fulfill its hype as it turns out to be a mediocre fantasy-drama-thriller.

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Fails As A Study of Emotional Burden Fails As A Study of Emotional Burden

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May 06, 2010
I'm with Trashie on this one. I actually liked this one. Kinda long-winded but...I'm shocked you gave this only two stars. The visuals alone warrant atleast a three bro. Are you the same dude who loved Let The Right One In? Great review though I'm leaning more towards atleast a 4 on this one.
May 06, 2010
well..well! Brian returns!! How are you, bro? Great to see ya around these parts again. Yeh, well, the problem was I never became entertained with this one. I thought it felt too contrived and some elements about it felt very manufactured. The visuals were nice but it overtook the supposed bleakness of the story and lack of emotions killed it for me. LTROI rules, bro! LOL
May 06, 2010
Hey bro! Yeah, I no longer have access to Lunch at work. I told Christy to give you my number & have you text me though I'm not sure if you got my message. I probably won't be able to spend much time on here as I used to but wanted to drop by & see what everyone was talking about. I don't think Lovely Bones is the best Peter Jackson film ever but still much better than most of the junk that gets much play these days. Personally, I think his LOTR series is long-winded too. I dunno. I'm more of a Dead Alive, Bad Taste, or Meet The Feebles kinda guy myself but I daresay I don't think he'll ever make another one of those. Say, Christy tell you I might be in Cali this month for Weekend of Horrors? I gotta get a Dario Argento autograph man.
May 06, 2010
Oh yeh, I got your number saved. Just haven't called yet because most of the time (lately) I get home really late and it'll be around 1 am in the East. You're right, that this was better than the Ratner and Bay creations and I guess I rounded down the 2.5 score because I expected more from him. I heard you guys were going to Cali--I'll see what I can do. Mayhap I'll drop by. If Asia will show, I will come to the convention LOL! We missed yah, bud.
May 06, 2010
I'm usually up at those ungodly hours. I also text all day long too. Yeah, I'm not feeling Ratner or Bay at all. Ya know, I wondered if Asia was going to show up. There is a good possibility. Ever seen Scarlet Diva? If so, any good? Stendahl Syndrome?
May 06, 2010
Scarlet Diva was good--Asia gets nikid a lot in that flick. It wasn't a horror movie but it had a good commentary on human behavior. Dave has been bugging me to see "Syndrome" --which reminds me..Dave and Trash reviewed Romero's latest movie: SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD.
May 03, 2010
I always felt that Peter Jackson's directing was just all around terrible with this one.  He seemed to use this as an experiment.  Felt like he was trying way too hard to be artsy with this one.  He overdid it.  A lot.  And he played it far too safe with a story that, for the most part, wasn't ever PG-13 to begin with.

I'm not usually big on comparing to the source material, but the book wasn't actually built up as a Thriller.  I think that's one BIG difference between the movie and the book.  Perhaps Jackson was a bit more interested in looking into the mind of Susie's killer.  You were getting a different interpretation.  Which, in the long run, is fine.  I just wish Jackson's directing didn't come off like a magician who hasn't really practiced his tricks.

But it did seem like Susie was stuck in a place between heaven and earth... and in the book she was definitely... not.  She's in heaven.  I just think that Jackson was trying way too hard to be artsy and that made for a pretty bad movie when a straightforward no non-sense approach would've been fine.
May 04, 2010
Unfortuanately I haven't read the book yet so I cannot say which one I prefer if it was the heaven thing. I do agree that this was mainstream and aimed for the commercial distribution. I did get a little bothered with the over indulgence in SFX and I thought it lost a lot of its emotional impact. This would have been better as a straight-forward drama than something out of a fantasy creation.
April 30, 2010
I want to see this so bad man, I am a Jackson fan [Dead Alive baby] but now I know to go into it with low expectations. Great review WP as always good sir, once again you impress.
May 01, 2010
Thanks, Alex. You may like this one since you're a PJ fan but keep expectations low.
April 30, 2010
Agreed. So, would you also say that it's his worst film?
April 30, 2010
Despite the fact that the movie is a lot better than any garbage Bret Rattner can come up with, I would say yes.
May 03, 2010
Now, you hadn't read the book, had you?
May 03, 2010
Getting revenge isn't a priority for most people, but reconnecting with those you love is. The story isn't meant to be a thriller or a revenge melodrama, it's about family and how people are affected by death in different ways.
May 03, 2010
No, they did make love, and admittedly that was odd and seemed beside the point of the book. But I think that Sebold was trying to show how those in the afterlife can effect those still living and vice versa, plus I think she wanted to give a girl who had suffered greatly one moment of feeling loved and fulfilled as a woman. Essentially there was a whole world of opportunities, of emotions, and experiences that she could never have, so Sebold gave her a chance at at least one of those as an act of mercy.
May 04, 2010
Well, the contact occurs when she is in someone else's body. They switch places.
May 04, 2010
Were you annoyed the way they kept foreshadowing the icicle falling and then had him fall off a cliff instead? That bugged me.
May 15, 2010
In the book, he didn't fall into the ravine, he was impaled by the falling icicle. In the book., there's the whole subplot at the Summer camp for the really intelligent children and Susie's sister goes. There she and the rest of the school are asked to come up with their idea for the perfect murder and Susie, while watching in her heaven, says that death by an icicle would be best since the murder weapon would melt. The fact that they kept having the icicle foreshadowed and then didn't have that as the actual instrument of his death, but rather his fall was misleading and basically symbolically shallow.
May 16, 2010
Hmmm, that's odd. I'll have to get out my paperback copy and check that out. Either I'm getting very forgetful or there's info on page 326 that explains that more.
May 16, 2010
well, for me I haven't read the book so I am just enjoying the discussion here.
May 16, 2010
That's what I was thinking. I don't recall him actually falling into a ravine, so I'm wondering if he was already at the bottom when he was hit by the icicle. But I'm not sure. It's almost been two years since I read it and I'm part of a book discussion group, so it's easy to forget these things when you read so many books.
More The Lovely Bones (2009 movie) reviews
review by . January 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*1/2 out of ****       I thought that perhaps I would go back and give Peter Jackson's latest film, "The Lovely Bones", a second chance. I thought that maybe it would be better the second time around. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I would give it my full attention. Upon finishing the film, I kind of had to wonder why the hell I revisited it. I didn't like it at first, and strangely enough, I still don't like it. I'm a Peter Jackson supporter by all means. I liked …
review by . January 17, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
In 2002, a woman named Alice Sebold wrote a book called The Lovely Bones.  It was well known for how it began so tragically and ended on such an uplifting note.  The book has gone on to be an acclaimed classic, selling over ten million worldwide.  The movie had a lot to live up to in that case.  And I'd like to tell The Lovely Bones is a wonderful movie filled with heart and joy.  Instead it's actually more like getting stabbed to death without dying.  You just WISH …
review by . January 14, 2010
Did Peter Jackson even read The Lovely Bones?
 I would not have thought that Peter Jackson, the director of the infamous Lord of the Rings trilogy (in case you didn’t know), would ever be a horrible choice to adapt a cherished novel to the big screen.  Going forward, I will not be so naïve.  In it’s original form, The Lovely Bones, as delicately told by author, Alice Sebold, is a shockingly honest account of what one seemingly happy family endures after the death of their eldest daughter.  Its scope reaches …
review by . April 19, 2011
   Death is a funny thing. Well, not really. I guess what I'm trying to say is that sometimes the way people, living people, think about death may not leave you with the best taste in your mouth for what your thoughts might be on the subject. I do not mean this in a suicidal way, but from a creative stand point. Take film and literature. Storytellers in both mediums have been telling various stories about life and death for hundreds of years. We have stories about the after life, stories …
review by . January 16, 2010
Good IF you haven't read the book
As the story opens, the narrator, 14-year old Susie, tells us she was murdered. We then see a cringe-worthy scene (that doesn't actually show any violence) and Susie leaves earth for "the in-between;" a nice place, but not quite heaven. She watches her family as they cope with her death and the years pass.       I liked the book a lot, which is odd considering it's about a girl who is horrifically killed by a pervert. Except for that one scene, however, the book was …
review by . April 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Stanley Tucci, without a doubt     Cons: not enough to really dis it     The Bottom Line:   "I'd like to think it's all_a_dream   Someone please come and rescue me   Don't want to see my_family_torn   Left me with a soul without my lovely bones"  ~Josh Todd     The Lovely Bones, directed by Peter Jackson, was a surreal trip, similar to What Dreams May Come, but not nearly as good.   …
review by . March 25, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Death is a funny thing. Well, not really. I guess what I'm trying to say is that sometimes the way people, living people, think about death may not leave you with the best taste in your mouth for what your thoughts might be on the subject. I do not mean this in a suicidal way, but from a creative stand point. Take film and literature. Storytellers in both mediums have been telling various stories about life and death for hundreds of years. We have stories about the after life, stories about …
review by . May 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
THE LOVELY BONES is a quiet novel about horrendous events described eloquently and with spiritual insights by author Alice Sebold. While the book, being a rather introspective version of the murder of a young lass, would be difficult to translate to film, Peter Jackson (with a screenplay adaptation by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Jackson himself) should call this version an idea inspired by Sebold's book. If desiring a reenactment of the novel is the viewer's desire, skip this film, but if simply …
Quick Tip by . June 24, 2010
A fairly good adaptation of a brilliant novel. Read the book first.
review by . May 23, 2010
Who would have thought a story about child abductions would have made such a beautiful movie, but such is the skill of Peter Jackson. Based on a famous book by Alice Sebold, this story is set in the 1970's, and is about a family torn apart when one of their daughters is abducted and killed by a neighborhood serial murderer. The movie is told from the POV of the murdered girl, Susie Salmon, whose spirit floats in the in-between of heaven and earth. Torn between trying to interfere with events in …
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About this movie


The Lovely Bones is a 2009 film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Alice Sebold. The film was directed by Peter Jackson and stars Saoirse Ronan as the protagonist Susie Salmon along with Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz as her parents, Jack and Abigail Salmon respectively.

Jackson and his producer partners acquired the rights independently and developed a script on their own, later selling it to DreamWorks. Production began in October 2007 in New Zealand and Pennsylvania. Paramount became a sole distributor a year later when they split with DreamWorks. The film's trailer was released on August 4, 2009.

Susie Salmon, a 14-year-old girl who is murdered in the first chapter, and narrates the novel from heaven.
Jack Salmon, her father, who works for an insurance agency in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.
Abigail Salmon, her mother, whose growing family frustrates her youthful dreams and later has an affair with Detective Len Fenerman.
Lindsey Salmon, Susie's sister, a year younger than she is, thought of as the smartest.
Buckley Salmon, Susie's brother, is ten years younger than she is. His unplanned birth forced Abigail to cancel her plans for a teaching career. He sometimes sees Susie while she watches him in her heaven.
Grandma Lynn, Abigail's mother, an eccentric alcoholic who comes to live with her son-in-law and grandchildren after her daughter leaves.
George Harvey, the ...
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Director: Peter Jackson
DVD Release Date: April 20, 2010
Runtime: 136 minutes
Studio: Paramount
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