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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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Did Peter Jackson even read The Lovely Bones?

  • Jan 14, 2010
  • by
 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 into the minds of everyone who is affected by her death and even goes so far as heaven itself for answers.  On screen, it goes nowhere near any of this insight and just ends up a mangled mess.

The death of Suzie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), a fourteen-year-old girl with her whole life ahead of her, was senseless violence in a time when people still thought such things never happened to them.  No body is found and therefore no rest is had by those Suzie touched in life.  To sit with the book is to sit with the Salmon family in their grief.  It is a cathartic experience and one that I may need to go through again after having all my healing robbed from me by Jackson.  His focus, if he had any at all, circles around Suzie’s personal transition from the land of the living to that of the dead.  This allows Jackson to imagine grand imagery to bridge the gap between both worlds but, like Suzie, he too gets lost in the “in-between”. 

The only things that keep The Lovely Bones from falling apart completely are the performances of Stanley Tucci and Ronan as the murderer and his prey.  Their incredible grasp of the source material is the only reminder of its chilling emotional charge.  As for Jackson, he should have stuck with the gold he had in hand from the start.

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Did Peter Jackson even read The Lovely Bones? Did Peter Jackson even read The Lovely Bones? Did Peter Jackson even read The Lovely Bones? Did Peter Jackson even read The Lovely Bones?

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January 17, 2010
Well, I did see it... and I can't even imagine that those who haven't read the book would've liked it... and I set my expectations really low for this one.  I wasn't quite as annoyed at its deviations as I was the directing style of the movie.  I could never get past how hard Peter Jackson was trying for something "artistic".  Felt a little over reaching.
January 17, 2010
Thanks for all your compliments guys. It was my first post on Lunch and it was a pretty overwhelming response. If you want to read more of my work, just visit my site: http://www.blacksheepreviews.com
January 16, 2010
I'm in total aggreance with you here. It's unfortunate that Jackson went the special effects-over-story route. It felt like a good 60% of the novel was left out and it deeply affected both the characters and the internal logic and over all message of the book.
January 17, 2010
I did also find that Jackson chose to include all the wrong details from the book. He focused on them obnoxiously as if he was shouting them out to the fans in the audience. This is not a Hobbit crowd, Mt. Jackson. I would have preferred you captured the tones instead of the details.
January 17, 2010
Also, he left out so much and yet didn't compensate for it thematically. He kept foreshadowing the death with the icicle and yet he ultimately didn't use it, at least not in the same capacity as the book, which eliminated the entire symbolic importance of the death. The exclusion of all the sexuality in the book also hurt the film, because it left each of the characters as being only half (or less than half) developed.
January 18, 2010
I'm guessing that's because Peter Jackson opted for a PG-13 rating instead of pushing the envelope.  As far as the icicle, though... if you haven't read the book I'm sure that won't make sense.  In the book there was a lot of symbolism behind in... in the movie it looks like a coincidence of sorts.  Yet the one detail I think might've been better left in would've been the mother's affair.  Throughout the movie we don't really see how they all cope and in the book the mother copes through adultery.  It's like you guys said, the sexuality was one of the most important aspects.  Through it characters such as Susie's mother and Ruth (especially Ruth) really leaped out.  And then Ruth, Ray and even Susie's mother are among the least important characters in the whole thing...
January 18, 2010
And Lindsey too. Who really only got that one scene with Susie in the beginning. You certainly don't get the feeling that they were so close or that Lindsey would be affected so deeply by Susie's death. In fact, the only scene that even required Lindsey was the one where she broke into Harvey's house. As for the rating, apparently that was the studio's decision. They did one of those stupid test screenings and it showed that teenage girls responded best to the film, so voila... watered down story and more pretty special effects were added.
January 23, 2010
Scot, just to address that pro critic you mentioned: How can a beautiful heaven after death glorify murder? That is a perfect example why I tend to stay away from pro critics (their rants are sometimes based on their egos) and cannot admit that they just didn't get a concept. I haven't seen the movie yet so I cannot make a judgment. But I will soon enough...
January 23, 2010
If anyone didn't get the concept here it was Jackson, Walsh and Boyens. They were the ones that butchered the story. If I sound pissed off, it's because I am. Firstly, Jackson sues New Line for profits from LotR that he was supposedly denied. Then he makes "King Kong" instead of "The Hobbit". Then when finally, he and New Line settle the whole legal thing, Jackson does "Lovely Bones" and after I don't even know how many on-line petitions to get him as director he passes "The Hobbit" off to Guillermo del Toro. Now, "The Hobbit" was originally intended to come out in 2008 or 2009, then 2010 and 2011 (after they decided to split it into two films, which is a really bad idea), then it became 2011 and 2012, and now it's been pushed back yet again to 2012 and 2013 according to a top New Line exec. I'm beginning to hope it never happens, because clearly no one cares about making a good film from the book or satisfying the real fans, but are only concerned with making money.
]: (
January 24, 2010
well, actually I was just criticizing the critic that stated the heaven after death thing glorifies murder...how the hell is that possible? A belief in a reward after death glorifying murder? I'd like to read that review. I guess I was talking of how pro critics tend to make criticisms w/out merit sometimes.

as for making money, Hollywood is an industry unlike the foreign filmamkers who see cinema as an art form.
January 24, 2010
Agreed. That makes no sense.
January 16, 2010
I agree with you! The movie changed so many important plot points and was nothing like the book. I hated Jakson's version of the "in-between." Where was the swing in the high school playground?! I loved the actress who played Susie, but that's about it.
January 17, 2010
Saoirse Ronan is such a great young talent. I loved her in Atonement!
January 15, 2010
I don't really care if an adaptation follows the book, but I most certainly knew from the get go that Peter Jackson was wrong for it.  It was pretty much right after Lord of the Rings that he signed up for this shortly after.  Doing a complete 180 from what he knew without actually taking a moment to realize that the same filming techniques that worked for Lord of the Rings... probably won't work for The Lovely Bones.  Because they're just so different, and Peter Jackson didn't really do much to prepare himself for The Lovely Bones.  I might still check it out.  I've read the book numerous times.  So much that even if the movie is nothing like the book... well... that's what I have the book for anyway.
January 17, 2010
I have actually read critics suggesting that if you have read the book, you should avoid the movie just to make sure the initial experience remains intact.
January 15, 2010
The book only held my interest until about half way through, as I don't care for this subject matter in the first place. Indeed, I do agree Alice Sebold is an excellent writer. Too often, the films never do the book justice, and I've learned not to have great expectations which is why I wouldn't waste my time on a movie like this. As is the case with many a book that has been turned into a film....the story is torn to shreds. Perhaps Ms. Sebold should not have sold out.
January 14, 2010
I thought this was an interesting review which was fun to read, but I don't think it expressed your disappointment between book and movie well enough. Plus, movie versions of books are usually *very* different from the books, which is always a downside to viewing the movie after reading a book. Often, you need to go into the movie with different expectations than what you had when reading the book, especially considering the elements that movies bring for the viewer that novels cannot. A review of the book, then one of the movie, and then one comparing the two would have been more useful, at least for me.

I enjoyed the book when I read it. Alice Sebold is a phenomenal writer. I'm excited for the movie, but I do not expect it to be anywhere near as good as the book. I'm looking forward to the actresses and actors, emotions, and special affects. I was intrigued by the previews as well as the musical choices. They definitely showed that the movie is different from the book, but I still am curious as to Jackson's interpretation.
January 15, 2010
Yeah, I agree. Lord of the Rings was exceptionally transferred to the big screen. It stayed very true to the saga, which I have read, and it worked that way. Most movie directors don't want to just recreate the book in movie form. They usually want to place their own "mark" on it.

There have been some movies that I thought were better than the book, such as Memoirs of a Geisha. These types don't happen often, though.

To be honest, I liked Twilight better as a movie than as a book. I thought they took out a lot of the "dragging" elements that the first book had when I read it. I also found it less annoying for Bella to be looking at Edward with hungry eyes than have it repeatedly stated throughout the book. ;)
January 15, 2010
I'm usually okay when the movie isn't like the material, if only because I'm one of those, "If I wanted the book I would've read it," type of people.  Some films it's pretty unrealistic to think they could actually accompany the entire book (case in point Youth in Revolt the film is only 90 minutes... the book is over 500 pages long... they wouldn't be able to do everything with that unless they were going to make it around four hours long).  Other times being too close to the book makes it really really boring (as is the case with Harry Potter).  There is that VERY rare case where the movie is better than the original source material (at the moment I can only think of The Shawshank Redemption) but most times it's usually not a big deal.  Though I gotta say I'm totally not digging the buzz on this one.

Just out of curiosity, Adrianna, while watching Twilight did you get the feeling that at some point Edward was just going to eat her?  'Cause I sure as hell did!
January 15, 2010
I'm the same way regarding the book versus the movie. :)

LOL! Yeah, I got that feeling when watching the film. I'm sure that made Meyer proud because she wanted the audience to know how much Edward desired Bella, and not just in the "i think you're cute way." Ick! I can't stand blood or meat. I couldn't ever be a vampire, not even a "vegetarian" one, lol!
January 17, 2010
Yeah, talk about an oxymoron!

I enjoyed both King Kong and Lord of the Rings, so I imagine I might also enjoy this one. I guess it will depend on whether I get annoyed that it strayed too much from the book.
January 17, 2010
I agree that clearly a movie based on a book should stand on its own for its own reasons. And when reviewing a movie based on a book, to be honest, I usually haven't read the source material to begin with. In this case though, I had. I wanted to. That said, anyone going to see a movie and rendering an opinion on it does so with what they bring to the movie in terms of their own personal experience. I had read the book and therefore had to criticize the transition. I wouldn't want to pick it apart over details; that's for the LOTR crowd to do ... but my major criticism is that he didn't capture the major themes of the book and ended up making a movie about very little of anything at all. I do believe that even if I had not read the book first, I would still be able to see how little direction there actually was in this movie.
January 17, 2010
I can usually sympathize, though.  Usually when I review I stick in whether or not it sticks to the source material for those who really want to know.  With The Lovely Bones I was able to separate the book from the film, but for the sake of those looking for accuracy it would be a disservice not to inform them of the changes from the book to the film.  I just felt that Jackson put far too little focus and emphasis on the characters.  He didn't have to follow the book to a tee to do that.  And in that instance... yeah, I could see how people would question whether or not Peter Jackson really understood the book.  Without the characters really being developed it doesn't exactly drive home what the theme of The Lovely Bones was.  But I was a little too upset with how Peter Jackson was trying too hard I actually forgot to at least look for whether or not he at least maintained the main message of the book.  Which, at the very least, is pretty importat.
January 18, 2010
Your review expressed your sentiments to a T. I really enjoyed reading it. I can understand your feelings too!
January 14, 2010
So disappointing to hear... I thought the book was phenomenal. Thanks for saving me the time and let down of seeing this!
January 14, 2010
Great review.  Seeing promos and trailers for this film didn't really grab my attention so I think I'm going to stay away from it.  It's funny how Peter Jackson has kind of just lowered his standards.  I don't know if you enjoyed District 9 or not, but I thought it was pretty poor and as a producer, he should have stayed away from it. 

Also, just wanted to let you know that I shared your review of the film on Facebook and Twitter :)
January 15, 2010
LOL! I had mixed feelings about Distract 9. That would be an interesting one for me to review. But alas, I must catch up with my fun book reviews. :)
January 17, 2010
District 9 made my 2009 Top 10 list!
January 14, 2010
This is disappointing to hear since I've heard friends rave about the book. This is one of the books that I've really been meaning to pick up, so I was definitely planning on reading the book before seeing the movie.  Not really so sure I still want to do the latter thought considering your review of it :P  Thanks for sharing, Joseph!
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 …
Quick Tip by . January 04, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Awful. But what finally ultimately ruined it was the total misuse of the final song (This Mortal Coil's Song to the Siren is not a happy song, it is the most powerful love-tease song in English; inappropriate doesn't begin to cover it).
review by . April 30, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Fails As A Study of Emotional Burden
   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 …
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.
About the reviewer
Joseph Belanger ()
Ranked #24
Hello Lunchers. I am a thirty-something guy making his way in Toronto. I am a banker by day and a film critic the rest of the time. Sensitive, sharp and sarcastic are just a few words that start with … more
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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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