I avoided watching “The Lovely Bones’ for years because my emotional connection to Alice Sebold’s novel was complete. It is told from the point of view of 14-year-old Suzie Salmon, who has been murdered. My memory of reading it on the subway heading to work and sobbing audibly (I am not an easy crier) was still fresh in my mind.
The trailers at the time did not jibe with my own visuals so I dismissed this film as another “My Sister’s Keeper” – which infuriates me to this day!
I was finally inspired to watch it as it turned up at my local thrift shop for $4 and my thought was “Well, at least I am giving the money to a worthy cause and not to the distributors of this film”
So, here I am all prepared to hate it.
I let go of that about 6 minutes into the film.
Peter Jackson’s visuals were exquisite and reminiscent of an earlier favorite Jackson film, “Heavenly Creatures.” Some shots were so breathtakingly beautiful that I actually lost track of the storyline. It was like getting lost in a Monet painting.
I found “The Lovely Bones” to be stunning and lyrical with sound performances all around (always a pleasure to see Susan Sarandon being eccentric) but had it retained the premise of the original novel, it would have been staggeringly heartbreaking.
Many side storylines were omitted that added great depth and pathos to the novel.
Particularly, the budding relationship between the Goth girl who finds Suzie’s poem and Suzie’s unrequited crush (the British/Indian boy who had been a suspect in the original novel). The part of the Misfit Goth girl was edited down to almost a superflous character, yet her role in the story is the key to Susie’s murder finally being solved.
What was heart wrenching in the novel was Susie watching a burgeoning relationship that she created by her own death. In the film, we see the grief stricken father and the family torn apart by this tragedy and some very Hitchcockian moments of suspense as the older sister rifles through the killer’s house looking for evidence, but I preferred the story being told only through the eyes of Susie as she struggles to see life go on without her.
The film stands on its own merit, though. With beautiful cinematography and a solid team of actors (particularly the newcomer Saoirse Ronan as Susie who was very believable and vulnerable with her steely blue eyes and simple innocence)
Stanley Tucci was quite good as the oily neighbor/serial killer, a departure from his usual menschy sort of roles. I was also prepped to not believe Tucci in this role as he was a friend of my ex husband’s in college and just an all around good guy, but I was again happily proven wrong.
(Yes, I know he’s an actor, but I wouldn’t necessarily buy Woody Allen as Conan the Barbarian at face value)
All things being equal, I should have given the distributors my money. It would have been worth it to see it on a big screen. I’m sorry that I did not support it at the time and I wish it had gotten a little more recognition. The Lovely Bones is a powerful movie, but the novel still reduces me to ashes.