The Lovely Bones (2009) Review

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Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence
Cast:
Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon
Stanley Tucci as George Harvey
Mark Wahlberg as Jack Salmon
Rachel Weisz as Abigail Salmon
Susan Sarandon as Grandma Lynn
Michael Imperioli as Detective Len Fenerman
Director: Peter Jackson

After being brutally murdered, 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) watches from heaven over her grief-stricken family (Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz) — and her killer (Stanley Tucci). As she observes their daily lives, she must balance her thirst for revenge with her desire for her family to heal.

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The Lovely Bones looked like it had all the elements for a great film. It had a great cast including Saoirse Ronan and Stanley Tucci, was based off a murder mystery book with fantastical elements, and was directed by Peter Jackson of all people. So it just was a shame that the movie didn’t turn out to be all that good really that good.

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I’ve never read the book of the same name, so I’m just judging the movie as it is. The setup is reasonably straightforward, lead character is killed by killer, and the lead character is in purgatory watching events happen. After that though, it all just sort of falls apart. First of all, the tone is pretty weird and all over the place. As I just said, murder plays a big part of the movie. At the same time there’s a lot of random comedy, for example there’s a particularly comedic scene with Susan Sarandon and it doesn’t work with the rest of the movie. Maybe it was aiming to be a dark comedy of sorts, but I was trying to even look at this it from that angle and that still didn’t work as that. The approach to the afterlife was even weirder, especially with how Jackson decided to portray it on a visual level. Aside from occasionally watching over her family and friends and trying to communicate with them, it’s just Susie watching from her place and not doing much. Not only that but the story too, it is approached with a family friendly sort of way, and that just doesn’t work. Even though it’s not shown on screen, the setup of the movie is that the main character gets raped and murdered by a killer, at this point one probably shouldn’t be trying to make that story a movie with a PG-13 approach. I just wasn’t all that invested with what was going on, not with the thriller and murder level, and not on the supernatural afterlife level either. It’s a shame because there was some potential. After the murder, it felt like they didn’t know what to do with the concept. The writing itself isn’t particularly good, the dialogue can be particularly bad. The ending was particularly weak, and without spoiling anything, the message at the end of all is more than a little questionable, whether it’s intentional or not.

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The cast is pretty talented, but the acting is a bit mixed, there are really two highlights that stand out among the rest. Saoirse Ronan’s acting as the lead character of Susie isn’t one of the best performances of her career, but she plays the role as best as she possibly can, and adds quite a lot to the movie. The highlight performance of the movie however is Stanley Tucci as the killer. This is one of those performances where a familiar and likable actor plays such a dark and different role from what they are used to, and they pulling it off seamlessly. Tucci’s character already shows early signs of being a killer and at times it gets a little silly, but at the same time there are many parts to him that feel creepily naturally. Mark Wahlberg’s performance here is a big of a mixed bag. Generally he’s at least okay enough at acting but his acting here reminded me a lot of his performance from The Happening, and it was just rather hard to take him seriously. Even in the more dramatic scenes he seemed really out of place. Rachel Weisz is a great actress but she does just okay here, honestly she doesn’t get a lot to do in the movie. The rest of the cast is mostly just fine, not bad by any means, but nothing above just decent.

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We all know that Peter Jackson is a really good director, but his direction of The Lovely Bones is a bit all over the place. Most of the work in the real world sections are filmed fine, if nothing spectacular. The visuals are quite large during the afterlife sequences, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily good, they were quite over the top. At times it could be cartoonish and really silly. I will say that as glossy and weird looking as the effects are, it is a good looking movie generally.

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The Lovely Bones unfortunately isn’t that good and is among Peter Jackson’s worst movies. I can’t comment on whether the book delivered these concepts better but whatever the case, the movie didn’t reach its potential with the ideas. Saoirse Ronan and particularly Stanley Tucci were great, and that might make the movie worth watching. Outside of that there’s really not that much. Watch it if you’re curious about it, but you wouldn’t be missing much if you chose to skip it.

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