The Lovely Bones (12A)

Directed by Peter Jackson
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Rose McIver, Susan Sarandon

All the ingredients are there - top director Peter Jackson, talented cast lead by brilliant child actor Saoirse Ronan and two of my favourite actresses, Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon. Heck, there's even an ex-Xena actor, Rose McIver. Unfortunately, the film is doomed from the start due to the pretty much unfilmable nature of the book. I picked up the book years and years ago, read the premise and the first few pages and put it down as too depressing.

A 14 year old girl, Susie Salmon, has been raped and murdered and watches her family and friends from the afterlife. Grim. Then last summer I spent a week listening to the complete audiobook while decorating and really got into it. However, there is no escaping that the premise simply does not work on film. Jackson puts Susie in a magical CGI afterlife, but that was never the main point of the book. It was the pain and anguish that stood out - not exactly fun to watch on screen. Jackson has been criticised by some for softening the nature of the crime - we do not see the murder or dismemberment and the rape is absent. However, those events in the book were just so horrible, there is surely no way anyone would want to see that.

I still question whether this was a film that should have been made at all. The book itself was so hard to classify. It was beautiful but horrible, incredibly touching but with no big revelations on the meaning of life or how to come to terms with grief. The book is not a crime mystery (which actually would have worked on film) about how her killer is caught, instead it tells of the way the people's lives go on. At times I was frustrated that there were no emotional breakthroughs for the characters, that Susie's death seemed pointless - and of course that is the point. The book's strength is its prose and that is lost here.

Ronan is a very fine young actor and does her best, certainly holding our sympathy and interest, but the characters are never really developed - Weisz and Sarandon in particular are wasted. Stanley Tucci is certainly creepy enough as the villain. As in the book, I desperately wanted him brought to justice for his crimes! However, it wasn't that sort of book, and this isn't that sort of film. Unfortunately. 5/10

November 2009.

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