Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Lovely Bones

Directed by Peter Jackson.
2009. Rated PG-13, 136 minutes.
Saoirse Ronan
Stanley Tucci
Mark Wahlberg
Rachel Weisz
Susan Sarandon
Michael Imperioli
Rose McIver
Reese Ritchie
Carolyn Dando
Nikki SooHoo
Christian Thomas Ashdale

Susie (Ronan) is your everyday, boy-crazy 14 year old in 1973. Well, we think she is. However, we very quickly discover she’s already been murdered. She even tells us that Mr. Harvey (Tucci) is her killer. Since we get all this information at the beginning of the picture, we know this is no ordinary murder mystery. But there is mystery. The obvious question becomes will Mr. Harvey be caught? There are other questions to be answered, as well. Mainly, how does Susie’s death affect her family. That aspect is explored in-depth. We can see how each person copes, or doesn’t cope with the situation. This includes Susie, who continually narrates to us from the other side while trying to find her way to Heaven.

Speaking of narration, I’ve never been a huge fan of it in movies. I freely admit if it is done right, it’s a great asset to a film. Here, it’s done right. The key is Susie rarely, if ever, crosses the line of giving us too much information. More importantly, she steers clear of simply recapping what we just saw or telling us what we’re about to see, for the most part. Essentially, she thinks out loud so that we see her perspective changing as we move along.

Playing the role of Susie, Ronan does an excellent job. Even though she spills the beans on the major details early, her performance conveys the idea there is much still to be discovered. As she, and we, come upon these revelations she is appropriately amazed and dismayed. While Ronan is good, there are two other performances that are simply perfect. The one you may know about is Stanley Tucci’s Oscar nominated portrayal of our villain, Mr. Harvey. It’s an amazing piece of work. Helpfully, it is a very well written character. He’s downright gentlemanly in his approach to most things. If we didn’t know any better, we’d think he was just some non-descript fellow who lives in the neighborhood, the scariest kind of boogeyman. The other great performance has flown under the radar. Susan Sarandon as the chain-smoking, and chain-drinking grandmother is absolutely fabulous. Her drunken wisdom and lack of domestic capabilities add both levity and comic relief. Sarandon strikes the perfect balance. In the process, she becomes the linchpin that keeps the family and potentially the movie from spiraling completely out of control.

There are times when the movie does indeed seem to take leave of its faculties. Most of these occur when the focus is on Samantha’s excursions in the afterlife. These portions of the film try to wow us with exoticvisuals. Instead, it takes what’s already a far-fetched premise and pushes it to the brink of total inaccessibility. There is also her constant lament of not having had a first kiss while alive. While that’s understandable from a teenage girl, the way this particular issue is resolved is a bizarre piece of b-movie madness that threatens to sink the movie. The same goes for her sister’s lame-brained effort at heroism that miraculously turns out far better, far easier than it should. Those issues aside, TLB is an excellent watch that intrigues us at almost every turn. It makes us empathize with Susie’s family. Eventually, we feel as if we lost a loved one. And though it’s not a horror film, it frightens us just enough to keep us on the edges of our seats.

MY SCORE: 8/10

No comments:

Post a Comment