Tucci Goes Salmon Fishing
I've never read Alice Sebold's novel which "The Lovely Bones" is adapted from but somehow I just get a feeling something has been lost in its adaptation. And the reason I feel this is because whilst it starts well and draws you into the character of Susie Salmon and her situation as well as her death what follows afterwards just isn't compelling. It seems to end up becoming very choppy, delivering episodes which struggle to link together and in doing so losing the attention which it gained during the first 15 - 20 minutes. And that choppiness sadly spoils the movie as does it's feeling of softness when covering the gritty subject of a child being murdered.
Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan - I Could Never Be Your Woman) is your typical 14 year old girl who like most girls has a teenage crush. But all of that changes on the 6th December 1973 when she is murdered and finds herself in a magical land in-between Earth and Heaven where she can observe what she left behind. And it is here that she watches how her father racked with guilt becomes obsessive in trying to find who killed her and that her mother leaves their home as she can't cope with the way things are going. But she can also observe her murderer and finds herself in some way trying to help her father discover who he is.
As already mentioned the start to "The Lovely Bones" is very good and it really draws you into the life of Susie Salmon and her family, whilst at the same time paving the way for her creepy neighbour murdering her. Even immediately after her murder and we watch the neighbour Mr. Harvey being interviewed by a detective it still draws you in to the story. But after that compelling build up it then loses you failing to keep you interested as it seems to chop form one episode to another as Susie observes what is happening to her family from that state of limbo. And so whilst watching Mr. Salmon descend into an obsessive state trying to work out what happened to his daughter and his wife leaving the family home because she can't cope is clever with Susie observing all of this it becomes very disjointed and frankly annoying.
And that is my biggest problem because in being choppy it also forces you to accept some massive contrivances especially when it comes to Mr. Salmon's realisation that it is his neighbour behind his daughter's disappearance. That scene is so painful to watch not because it is hard hitting but because of the forced way he suddenly realises it is Mr. Harvey that it spoils the movie. But that scene is not alone as what I suppose is meant be a humorous scene about Grandma Lynn being useless around the home feels just as wrong but for different reasons as it feels out of place and forced. It's as if in trying to cut down the story to fit a reasonable running length, important character developments and links are discarded in favour of what would be pivotal scenes. And this is for me why not only does the movie end up choppy but also hard to stay interested in.
And to be honest whilst Peter Jackson's visualisation for what heaven or at least the in-between world looks like is brilliant it ends up being a weak element. It is weak because the time taken for Susie to realise that she is in limbo, making friends with another dead girl called Holly and observing the real world goes on far too long to the point of becoming airy fairy, meandering around without really getting to the point quick enough. And whilst there are some great scenes during the focus on Susie in limbo as she discovers more about Harvey they end up weaker because all of the meandering which goes on around them.
All of which makes "The Lovely Bones" a little disappointing but then the acting in many ways saves it as for the most it works. Saoirse Ronan as Susie delivers an interesting character which we warm to and Mark Wahlberg gets every ounce of desperation and guilt out of Jack Salmon as he tries to find out who murdered his daughter. At the same time Rachel Weisz delivers an equally good performance as the wife and mother who just can't cope with what has happened and her husband's behaviour. Where things go wrong, and I can only think that it is down to chunks of character development being left out in adaptation, is Susan Sarandon as Grandma Lynn because it is a character which almost feels like a caricature thrown in to be funny and lighten up the heavy storyline but ends up being too forced and wrong.
But whilst for many Saoirse Ronan is the star of "The Lovely Bones" it is Stanley Tucci who steals the show with an unsettling performance as creepy neighbour George Harvey. Creepy is not the right word to describe how Tucci plays Harvey but not once does it become a forced creepiness and whenever you see him it makes you feel uneasy despite looking like an average joe.
What I do find strange is that for a movie which is about a child being murdered I find it weird that it gets a 12 certificate. So yes there is nothing in the movie which we see which would require a higher certificate but somehow I can only think that the grizzly nature of the story has been purposefully manipulated and softened to get a lower certificate and that really feels wrong. Now I am not saying that I want to watch a child being murdered but the way we watch Susie being tricked by Mr. Harvey and then suddenly we have to presume she has died at his hands feels very wrong. And I just feel that maybe embracing the grittiness of the subject would have made "The Lovely Bones" a more compelling and shocking movie rather than one which feels wrong for being a little too airy fairy.
What this all boils down to is that "The Lovely Bones" is entertaining and on the whole features some top performances but I just get a sense it could have been so much better. It just feels that important elements of the storyline have been left out so that not only would the movie be a reasonable length but also gain a lower certificate. And in doing so it makes the movie choppy with gaping holes in the plot where you are forced to accept massive contrivances. It is because of this that "The Lovely Bones" ends up entertaining but average when it could have been so much more.