Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones is based on the novel of the same name (2002) by Alice Sebold and stars Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon, a 14-year-old girl whom we are informed in the opening scenes has been abducted and killed by a neighbor. This was Saoirse’s first staring role and she and Stanley Tucci are the glue that holds a bit of a mess together. Jack and Abigail Salmon (Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz) are Susie’s parents and the parents of Lindsey Salmon (Rose McIver) and Buckley Salmon (Christian Thomas Ashdale).Buy The Lovely Bones DVD
A problem that occurs rather early in the film is that Peter Jackson does not set up an understandable story arc. Since it begins with the death of the main character, choosing a logical ending becomes a convoluted process for the viewer. Will the movie be over when the body is found? When Susie Salmon enters “Heaven”? Once the killer is discovered and captured? At one point, it felt like the movie must be almost over only to discover it wasn’t the halfway point yet. Then it seemed over with 45 minutes left. At 30 minutes one starts to question one’s sanity. What more story could there possibly be to tell? It was reminiscent of Jackson’s last hour of The Return of the King where every five minutes brought a new group of creatures who needed to give a proper goodbye to the Hobbits.
Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz are good playing parents, but not at playing grieving parents; desperate parents. There is too much whimsy in their demeanors. This is exacerbated by the role of Abigail’s mother played by Susan Surandon. She is too blithe a spirit for the threats that obviously surround the family. You will be asking yourself what is taking them so long to move away from what is necessarily a dangerous neighborhood.
On several occasions, there are confusing scenes that are for some reason played for laughs after setting them up as serious. Early on, we are told about the family’s “most terrible moment” when the young son chokes in the front yard on a stick and must be driven by a thirteen-ish Susie to the local hospital. We are supposed to laugh at how her feet barely reach the floor, and how her parents see her racing down the road in their station wagon. First, we already know it won’t be the worst moment for this young family; and second, the film demands seriousness to allow buy in for the coming horrible actions about to be perpetrated on Susie by George Harvey (played by Stanley Tucci in an outstanding, completely transformative role). Every family has its humorous moments, but in The Lovely Bones, the humor tends to come along at the wrong times.
You will be cheering for Susie Salmon; you will despair over the details of her first kiss; and you will hope she finds peace. The Lovely Bones is recommended to those who can overlook Wahlberg and Weisz and see the pure star power of Saoirse and Tucci.