The Lovely Bones famously tells the story of Susie Salmon, a girl who is brutally murdered (and in the novel of the same name, also raped) at age 14, by a serial killer living across the street from her in suburban America in the 1970's. She goes on to watch her family, friends, and killer, from "her heaven" in the sky.
I was riveted by the beginning of the best selling book by Alice Sebold, to the point that when my fiance Fabio came to bed later than me one night he nearly gave me a heart attack as I seriously mistook him for a murderer. Similarly, the movie's beginning enthralled me, but later I was bored by the lack of plot and became severely disinterested.
What started as a faithful adaptation with the penguin in the snow globe trapped in a perfect world, then turned into lots of liberties taken by director Peter Jackson, many for better, some for worse. For instance, huge, uninteresting chunks of interactions in school between Susie's friends are removed. Also, an unbelievable and difficult to comprehend affair between Susie's mom and the detective on the case is omitted. A scene in the book where Susie returns to Earth to have sex with Ray, her first love, is also taken out, thankfully, since during this encounter he doesn't even ask her who killed her (!!!), and is replaced by a much shorter but only slightly more logical kiss. Some incongruities remain (the murderer kept her body in a safe for about 10 years???) but overall Jackson does a good job weaving this story together and making a somewhat coherent movie out of a book which I found too long and dull after the first 50 pages.
Jackson definitely adds his touch to the elaborately imaginative heaven, focusing on it a lot more than in the novel, giving the landscapes vivid colors and sweeping views. This is overdone in my opinion but to his credit it must be difficult to depict what heaven should look like without making it look fake. His love of special effects is obvious but one part reminded me too much of a scene from Gladiator, where Russell Crowe sees his deceased wife and son walking in fields of yellow, with an almost identical song playing.
Back at home, Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz play Susie's parents but neither performance blew me away as we don't really feel their pain or what they are going through, or why Susie's mom leaves to California for many years. Susan Sarandon as the crazed grandmother was not bad although her drinking, smoking, setting the house on fire character was very exaggerated. The girl interpreting Susie, Saoirse Ronan, was good, with her large, light blue eyes giving her an ethereal quality that matched how I imagined her.
Stanley Tucci was creepy and almost unrecognizable as George Harvey, Susie's killer, but not deep enough to be truly scary. Without wanting to give away the end, I thought he was too easily dispensed with although this matches what happens in the book. It seems everybody wanted to wrap things up as quickly as possible.
Having only just finished the novel which disappointed me after all of the hype, I wasn't enthralled with its movie adaptation either. However, despite many flaws, in some cases it actually improved the story presented in the book.
My rating: 6
Total score: 13