The movie The Lovely Bones is based on the novel of the same name by Alice Sebold. The movie is directed by Peter Jackson and adapted to the screen by Phillipa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Fran Walsh. This is the same team that brought the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong to the big screen. It’s safe to say that expectations were high going into the movie just based on who made it. I read the novel as soon as I found out that Peter Jackson was making the movie. For those who have read the novel or even just seen the trailer, you know even before the movie starts that this is not an uplifting story. It is rather depressing. The story is told from the perspective of Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), a 14 year-old girl who is murdered by the Salmons’ neighbor, George Harvey (Stanley Tucci). You could say that before the murder the Salmon family is pretty close-knit. Father Jack (Mark Whalberg) and mom Abigail (Rachel Weisz) are a loving couple who have fallen into a routine since having three kids. Susie is joined by a sister Lindsey (Rose McIver) and brother Buckley (Christian Thomas Ashdale). The family is rounded out by eccentric, liquor-loving, chain-smoking Grandma Lynn (Susan Sarandon) who drops in occasionally before the murder. Everything falls apart after the murder. Her body is never found and all hope is lost that her killer will ever be found. Jack Salmon becomes obsessed with finding Susie’s killer and tries to help Detective Len Fenerman (Michael Imperioli) find the person responsible.
Susie continues to keep vigil on her family and her killer from a place that is in between heaven and earth. It is like a way station (I’ll just refer to it as that) for people to become used to the fact that they are dead. They can also attempt to wrap up unfinished business before proceeding to heaven. This part of the book is probably the most embellished in the movie. I certainly did not have in mind anything like what was on the screen. Peter Jackson obviously let his imagination run wild for these parts of the movie, and I think he went a bit overboard. If you have seen Lord of the Rings, then you can easily pick out the scenes that were filmed in New Zealand. There were a couple of parts from the book that take place in this way station that I was looking forward to seeing on screen, but they never came. I can always hope they are on the DVD’s deleted scenes. Susie meets a girl named Holly there and she essentially becomes Susie’s roommate, companion, and guide during her time at the way station. Holly serves another purpose, but I think that would be a spoiler.
Stanley Tucci as George Harvey was honestly the best played role in this movie. Mr. Harvey gives Susie the “skeevies,” and he will give you them too. George Harvey was my favorite part of the movie if I can have a pedophile as a favorite. I don’t know if Stanley Tucci’s eyes are blue in real life, but that is one thing that just stood out to me in his appearance. There were so many close-ups that it was not hard to notice. His hair was appropriately balding with a comb-over. Just everything about the way he played the role was amazing. This honestly has to be the best character I have seen him play. He received a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal, and it is well deserved.
My biggest issue with The Lovely Bones was that you had no idea how much time was passing from scene to scene. It was unclear whether it was days, months, or years. Obviously, Susie is not aging at all in the movie, but they did try to give a general idea with Lindsey. Rose McIver went from a pre-teen to someone in their late-teens or early twenties. She got breasts, then she starts wearing makeup, and so on. However, with Buckley, he just did not appear in the latter part of the movie at all. I don’t know if they just did not want to cast another boy for an older Buckley or if there was some other reason that he was just omitted from the ending. This movie would have benefited from the use of a date at the bottom of the screen ever so often.
There were some elements of the book that were left out and changed that I think were important to show what Susie got to do before she died. I don’t want to delve too deeply into that subject because it is rife with spoilers, but the relationship between Susie and Ray (Reece Ritchie) was more developed. Ray and the weird girl in school, Ruth (Carolyn Dando), were underused in the movie. Of course, we all know that movies are not as good as the book, but with a few additions, the movie could have been a lot better.
There were a couple of scenes that were done extremely well and those scenes probably brought up the rating for me. I did shed some tears in the movie. I know that there will be people who absolutely love this movie and others will hate it. I am in the middle of the road. It wasn’t awful and it wasn’t fabulous. For a movie that has been in the works for so long, I had high expectations, but they were not met. Like I said before, this is not a happy story.
3 “George Harvey dollhouses” out of 5