'The Lovely Bones' (dir. Peter Jackson)
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Saoirse Ronan, Stanley Tucci.
Plot: Centers on a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family - and her killer - from heaven. She must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal.
When I heard that Peter Jackson was going to adapt 'The Lovely Bones' for his next project, I thought, It'll be difficult but Peter Jackson is perfect for the job.
My reasoning being that Jackson is the director of both 'Heavenly Creatures' and 'The Frighteners'. I thought that on the merit of just those two films that Jackson would be an excellent choice of director for the project. After all, he has shown that he can handle dark and difficult subject matter in 'Creatures' with a successful use of fantasy to boot, and 'The Frighteners' dealt with life after death and injustice despite being a comedy as well.
However, the director of those films did not direct 'The Lovely Bones' because Peter Jackson is a very different director today.
Jackson's approach to film making (post-LOTR) has changed a lot, he is a more visual storyteller than ever before. This didn't get in the way of the LOTR films or 'King Kong' but it does effect 'The Lovely Bones' because the Jackson drowns the story out through the visuals.
The marriage between the reality of Susie's family dealing with her death and Susie effecting their choices from the after life do not merge successfully at all. Despite some strong performances from Sarandon, Wahlberg, and Weisz, the downward spiral of grief just doesn't cut through the clunky pacing and focus of the film.
While i was watching it, i couldn't help but keep thinking "Guillermo Del Toro should have done this and Jackson should be doing 'The Hobbit'", Del Toro has shown that he can get great results from child actors and telling a story from a child's perspective, he also manages to meld the fantasy and brutal reality together with amazing results (see Pan's Labyrinth). Unfortunately Del Toro didnt direct this but i can imagine that it would have been better if he had.
I might seem harsh blaming Jackson so much, but I really can't see who else is to blame. The score is wonderful, the costumes and set design make the 70s period feel genuine, the visuals stunning, and the performances are fine.The problem lies with the delivery of the story itself as almost nothing works. Characters are introduced as being 'significant' and then dropped and then picked up again an hour later. The marital breakdown of Susie's parents is just assumed and not seen, and i felt that the film's villain (played by Stanley Tucci) should have come across more loathsome because rather than dying to see him get his comeuppance i just wanted the film to end instead.
At over two hours long it's amazing that a director as assured as Jackson, armed with powerful source material and a cast to die for can make a film which is so unsatisfyingly resonant and so full of lifeless hollow characters. The film's heart is in the right place but this is a lovely mess indeed!