— by MARIUSZ ZUBROWSKI —
Philosophers such as Kierkegaard have always questioned God and the afterlife, but the question is not whether or not such a thing as Heaven exists, the question is “how do you depict something that has not been photographed and quite frankly might not be real?” The only way by answering such a question would be by saying “a healthy imagination,” and author Alice Sebold possesses this creativity and this is evident through a number of her novels including “Lucky,” “The Almost Moon,” and, most importantly, “The Lovely Bones.”
But what do you get when you combine a critically acclaimed story and the celebrated director of the “Lord of the Rings” series? Another excellent addition to Peter Jackson’s praise-worthy filmography.
“The Lovely Bones” chronicles the story of Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), a carefree teenager/aspiring photographer whose biggest problem is getting a date with an English student in her school. But that quickly changes when her neighbor George Harvey (Stanley Tucci), a seemingly normal gentleman that turns a new leaf when he lures her into hideout and murders her. But that is not the end of Salmon’s story, in fact its just the beginning as Susie is brought to a world that is between Heaven and Earth, an ever-changing landscape that serves as a constant reminder of the sorrow that is brought upon her parents Jack (Mark Wahlberg) and Abigail (Rachel Weisz), however Jack is not ready to give up on his daughter and he starts to unfold the mystery behind her suspicious death.
Quite frankly, Stanley Tucci looks like Matt Damon in “The Informant” and though I admit chuckling at first glance, Tucci’s performance is actually quite memorable. Usually, when a character is as one-dimensional as George Harvey is, it’d be a bad thing. However, in “The Lovely Bones,” it adds to the atmosphere. He is simply a personification of the savage nature of man.
Another memorable performance is that of Susan Sarandon, who plays Grandma Lynn. She serves as the comic relief for “The Lovely Bones.” Armed with a cigarette and a bottle of liquor, she offers to help Jack and Abigail through their time of emotional delicacy. Perhaps immature and cliché , Lynn — just like George Harvey — is added another dimension by the actors’ portrayals.
But what about the big-names in the film? Who can forget “Marky Mark” Wahlberg? For the first time in his career, Wahlberg is not as stoic as a glass figurine. Saoirse Ronan, who also starred in “Atonement,” does not deliver a mind-blowing performance, but it still hits the believable mark. The entire cast gives good performances, but it is really a wonder when the most stereotypical of the characters are also the most memorable. Seriously, I think that I’ve seen somebody resembling George Harvey on an episode of “America’s Most Wanted.”
But what is Peter Jackson most known for? Visual brilliance, and he sure does deliver. Perhaps an unneeded comparison but I feel like it is one worth making, just like “The Road,” the landscapes in “The Lovely Bones” magnify the emotional journeys of its characters. It transforms from beautiful lakes and extravagant fields to symbol to act of acceptance to raging seas and dark skies to express unadulterated sorrow and vengeance.
Some may disagree with my analysis that the film and the book are about accepting death even if it was through means of murder, but like all good works of art, “The Lovely Bones” can be interpreted in many ways, and this sparks good conversation.
Peter Jackson’s latest is still fantastical, but it’s much more realistic than “The Lord of the Rings” and this is its main appeal. It is far from perfect, and suffers from some superfluous dialogue and despite the memorable performances of Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci, the performances could have been better. But visual brilliance and ace story-telling outweigh any shortcomings that the film has.
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