The Lovely Bones (2009)


SVEN: The Lovely Bones is a film in which nothing happens. Normally, I hate when this criticism is leveled at movies, because it usually just means the reviewer felt there weren’t enough explosions. However, in the case of Peter Jackson’s fantastical opus the assertion is absolutely fair. In fact, the entire movie is a meandering sojourn into Schoolgirl Notebookland deliberately constructed to obscure this very shortcoming.

But let’s backup. The principle reason I may seem vitriolic about The Lovely Bones is that the beginning of the movie is actually pretty good. We follow Tween Girl through 1970’s suburbia and get a pretty good picture of her life, which we appreciate particularly because said Tween Girl makes it abundantly clear that she will soon be murdered. And this scene (the murder) is fantastically constructed when it actually happens. Up to that point, it’s enthralling stuff, which is a shame, because the movie devolves into a ponderous nosedive (yes, I know that’s an oxymoron) shortly thereafter.

After Tween Girl is dispatched, she enters a special effects heavy limbo between life and afterlife. Peter Jackson really tries to make this world spectacular, but the problem with his “wonderland” is not its elaborate design (though it does bear an eerie resemblance to the internet-famous Insane Clown Posse music video “Miracles”), but that nothing of any consequence happens there. Eventually I conditioned myself to “shut off” for the duration of the limbo sequences. I caught myself glancing around the room and thinking of everything but what was on my TV screen.

Runtime after the murder is divided between these moments and ones spent in reality with Tween Girl’s bereaved family. Unfortunately, these aren’t much better. Jackson captures an outstanding performance from his murderer character, but the rest of the charade is dressed-up and unprecedentedly flashy dead air.

See, it’s not that nothing happens because there’s no special effects or explosions, it’s that the special effects and explosions are subterfuge to disguise that nothing happens.

I am a big Peter Jackson fan. I think he raised the bar for tentpole blockbusters with his Lord of the Rings trilogy and constructed some fantastic action sequences in King Kong. And let’s not forget his raw, hysterical early work in Dead Alive (or even Bad Taste!). I really wanted to like this movie, and was jazzed to watch it, but I feel like the man let me down. Despite my disappointing experience with The Lovely Bones, aspects clearly demonstrate Jackson’s monster talent and I will continue to root for and enjoy his future offerings.

JAI: I enjoyed what I saw of The Lovely Bones up until the Holly character appears in limbo with the main character. That pretty much ruined limbo entirely, but I still kept enjoying the “real world” things… up until the climactic confrontation between the killer and the main character’s sister, which flooded the movie with bullshit. To be crass, here is a one-sentence summation of that scene and the following scene: “What the fuck what the fuck what the fuck?!”

Fortunately, that was near the end of the movie (The rest of the movie does not improve from there, though). But it was, wow, just so disappointing.

As Sven has already described, this film is pretty much saturated with equal parts MASSIVE TALENT and TERRIBLE STORY THAT DOESN’T GO ANYWHERE. Come to think of it, this is why I never tried reading the book; it didn’t have the “massive talent” thing going for it, just a story that I couldn’t imagine was any good. Turns out that the story ISN’T much good, if you can judge it by the lackluster middle and shockingly boring (And stupid) end of the movie.

But, y’know, I’d say that it’s worth watching just to see the first half. From there, you should probably just shut the movie off and imagine what the next half could have been.

Because I just really can’t get behind the message of “Heaven is other people who were murdered by the same guy that killed you, and Earth is where murderers can’t be brought to justice so they just trip and fall off cliffs.”

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