Sunday, December 20, 2009

Movie with Abe: The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones
Directed by Peter Jackson
Released December 11, 2009

It’s necessary for a movie that isn’t an abstract art film to have a coherent premise. A film either starts as a result of some catalytic event or works toward it. In the case of the former, there needs to be something compelling which happens afterwards which makes the whole of the film worthwhile. There must be some mystery to be solved or some closure to be achieved, otherwise the film might as well end almost as soon as it begins. In the case of “The Lovely Bones,” it’s a tragic event which sparks the story, but where it goes after that is altogether foggier and far less fascinating.

Perky, intelligent young Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is a girl full of life who, within minutes of the film’s opening, reveals that she will soon be murdered. It’s a devastating and frightening road to the event itself, but when it comes time for the awful moment, Susie is whisked away, seemingly by the power of her own mind, to a world in between life and death where she is able to observe what goes on in days to come. Why Susie still remains behind to watch over her former life is unclear to her, and keeping her around seems even more puzzling because it adds an element of fantasy to the story that just confuses and confounds it.

“The Lovely Bones” is filled primarily by narration from the deceased Susie Salmon, commenting on her post-life epiphanies and the events that continue to swirl as she is unable to move on from the “in-between,” as her younger brother explains it. There’s no question that it’s absolutely mesmerizing to hear the versatile and wildly impressive Ronan (an Oscar nominee in 2007 for “Atonement”) spout off her take on her newfound resting place and the actions of her family members and her murder. Her voice is hypnotic and it’s easy to get lost for hours in her bright blue eyes. She makes Susie one of the most mature, dynamic young girls ever to grace cinema screens.

Yet the talent of the lead actress is almost irrelevant – what’s happening on screen isn’t nearly as interesting. Susie might as well not stick around for the denouement. Her father’s hapless search for a way to find out what happened is hopelessly drawn out, as is the meandering post-script of her murderer, whose proximity to the situation makes his ability to continue to go undetected all the more frustrating. Stanley Tucci’s fearsome performance is akin to Ronan’s, a stunning embodiment of a character whose existence in this film feels unnecessary. It’s one of those times where you wish you could just hop into the screen and shout at the characters to tell them that they’re so close and all they need to do is have a little common sense and piece together the clues. They’re certainly not going to get far by themselves. The film might have been more compelling as a twenty-minute build-up to Susie’s murder, since that part of the film is much more compelling and fulfilling. Director Peter Jackson gets caught up in cheesy CGI visuals and attempts to legitimize Susie’s predicament through her new joie de vivre, but it’s hardly convincing, and a particularly unenthusiastic bore.


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