Saturday, 20 February 2010

REVIEW: The Lovely Bones

I suppose the lesson to learn from The Lovely Bones is that Peter Jackson may be heading prematurely to the way of Oliver Stone. That is to say that a promising film-maker, whose work gets ever more askew because they can't just ever tell the story. The visuals are so intrusive that the film becomes about them, instead of the characters and the story which it should be about. His ever roving camera and blunt, to the point visuals, which were so wonderfully complimentary to the world of the Lord Of the Rings franchise, do not recontextualise well for this film. At all. His insistence of stylising everything within an inch of its life means the real human horror of thing, the emotional nuance is just gone. Everything is exaggerated to the point of suffocation from the world of the 'in-between', which is so crudely put together that for every moment of beauty there are ten more moments of garishness. To his representation of the characters, all ciphers with no emotional depth because Jackson had no time for that. But the problem is this is a human story, and if you don't understand that then both the horror and the wonder are less effective.

The Lovely Bones is the story of Susie Salmon (Soarsie Ronan), a ten year old girl murdered and stuck in the limbo of the in-between, where she keeps watch on her family and her killer as they cope with both the loss and the thrill of her death. I feel awfully sorry for the actors in this movie, because Jackson seems to represent each one in broad caricature. The worst of it is for George Harvey, the child molester/killer in question. Every shot of him seems intent on making him a grotesque, pans over fingernails, over his thinning hair, over glasses etc, that he never gets to be the more complex monster he should have been. Which is all the more frustrating because Stanley Tucci gives a good performance in spite of all this, and if Jackson had just pointed the damn camera at him and let him act a bit it could have been something more interesting. But no, he tries to give the performance for him through visual exaggeration. This simplistic take translates to all areas of the movie really and makes it a much dumber, blunter movie then it should have been. Only the acting and the occasional impressive piece of CGI prevent it from being an out and out disaster. Ronan, perhaps is the biggest victim in all of this, because in other hands she could have done something extra-ordinary here. As it stands she is still very good, but the character is a mess whose motivations shift on a dime, and I'm willing to bet it wasn't that way in the book. Mark Wahlberg flatlines a little as the grieving father, and as much as I like Wahlberg, to be honest it needed a smarter actor then he to do what needed to be done here. Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon are flat out wasted.

This is what happens, and I doubt this happens too often, when a subtle, emotionally nuanced and powerful story is told with obnoxiousness to the hilt and the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The funny thing is Jackson can tell human stories, he did it fantastically in Heavenly Creatures. But he Oliver Stoned this movie to its grave, which is sad because there are glimpses of the movie it should have been (mostly through Ronan and Tucci) but the predominance is film-making it its most misguided. Through all of this its not terrible, simply half the movie it should have been.

Rating: 6/10

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