Thursday, 25 February 2010

The Lovely Bones

It's unfortunate but Peter Jackson's adap of The Lovely Bones is a mess. It's hard to pinpoint exactly where Jackson has made a colossal misjudgment but perhaps it's the effects-laden approach to material that needs feet on the ground...

Is intimacy the director's greatest adversary? Can he only paint humanity on the grandest scale, a la Lord of the Rings? Regardless, it doesn't work when tackling Alice Sebold's acclaimed novel, the story of 70's schoolgirl Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) who is raped and murdered by neighbour George Harvey (Stanley Tucci), although the film mercifully skips over the former. The novel's focus then shifts to her family, struggling to cope in the aftermath, while Susie narrates the tale from an in-between state.

The film's complete and utter failure to deal effectively with the challenging subject matter renders it somewhat tasteless. The fantasy sequences, sparse in the novel, now dominate, an ostentatious world of burnished cornfields, expanses of water and rampant shifts in the laws of physics. Does it look pretty? Sure. Does it tell us anything we need to know? Zip. Jackson is like a kid with a Christmas toy but his passion refuses to translate into anything beyond superficial. Likewise, although he evokes the period setting well-enough on Earth, it doesn't go anywhere beyond a few iffy haircuts (one scene where Susie escapes into a heaven-sent 70s magazine is unbearably tawdry, and symptomatic of all that is wrong with the film).

What makes it more frustrating is he has all the ingredients in place, chiefly an excellent cast, whom he fails to utilise at any level. The actors in the Earthly sections are washed-up flotsam and jetsam, entirely privy to the director's box checking. Mad dotty granny (Susan Sarandon)? Check. Mother who can't cope with trauma? Gold star. Eventual unspooling of the killer in ham-fisted fashion? You got it. Sarandon, Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz (as the parents) are utterly neglected. The complex mix of story strands, from Susie's desire for a first kiss to her sister's burgeoning sexuality becomes a collection of CGI sticks thrown into the wind.

It's not entirely without merit. Ronan as Susie does brilliantly battling against the tyrannical effects, a human heart in a plastic torso. Tucci also excels in a brave role as the unbearably sinister killer, although someone should tell Jackson that 'evil' (with Dr Evil-style raised finger to lip) doesn't consist of people staring out of doorways in every other scene. In the end though, The Lovely Bones' mangled attempt to convey feelings of grief, loss and redemption feel disappointingly skeletal.

No comments:

Post a Comment