Saturday, February 20, 2010
MOVIE REVIEW: The Lovely Bones
Availability in the US: In Theatres (Check Showtimes)
The Lovely Bones tells the story of a thirteen-year-old girl, Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan, Oscar nominee two years ago for Atonement), who is brutally murdered by her neighbor in a rural Pennsylvania town.
Based on the popular novel by Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones differs in many ways from the book: The entire sequence of events is changed around, entire character arcs are shortened to almost nothing, and some plot points are just plain left out. Yet most fans of the novel will enjoy the film; it takes the essence of Sebold's work and expands upon it in a visually interesting way. Those who have not read the book won't feel left out, as things are adequately explained throughout (unlike this year's awful adaptation of one of my favorite books, The Time Traveler's Wife, which just plain made no sense if you hadn't read the book).
Rachel Weiss and Mark Wahlberg put in great performances as Susie's grieving parents, and Ronan's portrayal of a young girl struck down just as she meets her first love is both real and heartbreaking. The true gem of The Lovely Bones though is Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci as the neighbor and serial murderer George Harvey. Tucci makes both Harvey's public facade—that of a bumbling, reserved, but harmless old man—and his private serial killer personality believeable. In one scene, as the police question him in his house, completely unaware of his guilt, you can watch his face change from helpful and kind to cold and ruthless as he spots a piece of evidence lying in plain view and hides it from the cops.
The other thing worth noting about The Lovely Bones is the visual effects. From the strange ghost town she finds herself in immediately after the murder, to her time in the In-Between, Susie's world is rich and colorful. The scenes of her Heaven are somewhat reminiscent of the visuals in What Dreams May Come, but somewhat more realistic.
Overall, The Lovely Bones is a well done film, sure to please both fans of the novel and newcomers. Tucci's performance is certainly Oscar-worthy, but seeing the tough competition he's up against in his category, coming from a movie with no other nominations certainly puts him at a disadvantage.