By Sandra Kraisirideja
Commercials for “The Lovely Bones” are promoting the movie as a supernatural murder-mystery where a teenage girl who is killed helps her father solve the crime from the after life. It’s understandable why Paramount and DreamWorks SKG decided to market the movie, based on the 2002 novel of the same name by Alice Sebold, this way since it summarizes the story in a way that can be understood in 60 seconds or less.
It would be harder to put a commercial together that shows the movie for what it truly is–as an examination of life and death as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl who is brutally raped and murdered and who lingers on between heaven and earth, unable to let go of the real world, to observe the lives of those she left behind. As the years progress she gains the courage to accept her own death.
Director Peter Jackson purchased the rights to the book personally and wrote the film adaptation with his wife, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens. Set in Pennsylvania in 1973, “The Lovely Bones” is a departure of sorts for Jackson, whose last movie was the CGI-laden “King Kong.” Jackson still gets a chance to exercise his imagination and employ special effects for the scenes that take place in the after life. Interestingly, those are not as compelling as the scenes that take place in the real world.
Jackson shows that he is quite capable as a director even when CGI or special effects are not called for. He’s got a great cast to work with too, including Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Rose McIver, and Stanley Tucci. Ronan, who audiences may recognize from her role in “Atonement,” plays Susie Salmon the teenager who is raped and murdered in a corn field adjacent to her neighborhood. Her clear, green-blue eyes and delicate features make her instantly sympathetic. Ronan delivers a pitch perfect performance as a young girl who is blossoming into a beautiful woman; caught between still wanting to be a kid and wanting to be a grown up. McIver, who plays Susie’s sister Lindsey, is also very good. She should have a long career in front of her if she continues to choose projects that take advantage of her budding dramatic talent.
Of the adult actors–who are all very talented and deliver great performances as is expected–the real standout is Tucci, who plays the serial-killer-next-door, George Harvey. To play Harvey, Tucci transformed his appearance, wearing contacts, a wig to give him the appearance of a receding hairline, and implants in his cheeks to give his face a different structure. It’s hard to believe he is the same actor who played Julia Child’s husband in “Julie & Julia.” In addition to his physical appearance, Tucci seemed to change his entire persona to embody this character. It’s fortunate this is not his first role as he may not be able to get work as anything else after. That’s how effective his performance is.
“The Lovely Bones” deserves an audience and hopefully word of mouth will not be affected by the marketing campaign that makes it out to be something that it’s not. “The Lovely Bones” is a well-acted drama with suspenseful moments and characters that are compelling to watch.