The Lovely Bones (2009) - Run time: 135min
Plot: Based on the novel by Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones is about 14 year old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan)who is brutally murdered by neighbour George Harvey (Stanley Tucci) and looks down on her friends and family from her own personal heaven (or the "in-between"). She watches as her family falls apart over her murder - her mother Abigail(Rachel Weisz) can't cope with her loss and disappears to California leaving Susie's father Jack (Mark Wahlberg) and crazy Grandmother Lynn (Susan Sarandon) to care for their other two children, Lindsey and Buckley. Meanwhile, Jack becomes obsessed with solving her murder and quickly suspects Harvey is responsible.
I read this book probably about a year ago and really liked it, so when I heard they were making it into a movie I was excited but hesitant. The book is very disturbing and complex and I was not sure how it would be effectively transferred to the screen. Critically, the movie has received horrible reviews. The thing that I most disliked about the movie also happens to be the thing I found really annoying in the book: the whole "heaven"/"in-between" thing. In the book, when you got to a part where Susie was describing her heaven it was almost like reading an entirely different novel - it really had little to do with the rest of the book. I think having Susie narrate from heaven was a great idea and extremely effective, however there could have been a lot less description of the psychedelic experiences she has in her heaven in between spying on her family. It just felt really out of place. Unfortunately, the movie followed into the same trap. It seems like the director was so busy trying to make Susie's heaven like some crazy acid trip that he did not stop to think about whether the scenes he was including really added to the story (which they didn't). Again, while watching the film, these scenes almost seemed like they belonged in a different movie. Emotions go from happy and carefree to absolutely depressing in seconds and leave you unsure of how you are supposed to be feeling.
While I thought the casting was great and the acting was pretty good, the character development was quite poor, leaving the actors little to work with. Grandma Lynn magically appears with no explanation for her behaviour and then disappears just as fast, only to return later with the same strangeness. Similarly, in the book, the character of Buckley plays a much larger role as he tries to navigate his childhood with a murdered sister, an absent mother, a crazy grandma, and an emotionally distant father. This was pretty much cut out of the film entirely. Same goes for the character of Lindsay, while she plays a larger role in the film, her character still is not really flushed out and it seems like random parts of the book that involve her character were put in simply for the suspense it created - you don't really get to see deeper into Lindsay and how the loss of her sister really affected her.
I have to admit that I wasn't overly disappointed with the film adaptation. There were some things I really didn't like and I think they could have done a much better job overall, but I didn't walk out of the theatre totally let down. I guess you could say I'm ambivalent - I'm not really sure what to make of this film. It certainly does not compare whatsoever to the book it is based on, so for all of you readers out there I strongly suggest taking a go at the book before you see the movie - but I guess I was entertained by the film.
Rating 6/10 - read the book first and take the film with a grain of salt