The Lovely Bones is the odd movie out from Peter Jackson’s post-Lord of the Rings work. It’s not a 3 hour epic, but special effects are a highlight. I was intrigued to see The Lovely Bones mostly for Jackson’s directing. Even though I knew the subject matter would leave me depressed. The ending was depressing, but everything else made me angry. Since a young person taken from this world too soon is a terrible tragedy that no one should ever endure. The 14 year old Susie Salmon is much too innocent for this evil world. All she wants is to become a photographer and kiss the boy of her dreams.
Her heartbreaking death in 1973 is at the hands of the despicable Harvey when he lures Susie into a den under a corn field. The 2002 novel sounds so much more horrific, but it’s the supernatural element that was probably hardest to translate. Susie doesn’t become a ghost. Instead she ends up in the In-Between. A brightly colorful and even psychedelic personal Heaven with an upbeat tone. The cast is full of major celebrities like Mark Wahlberg as the father, Rachel Weisz as the mother, and Susan Sarandon as the grandmother. A young Saoirse Ronan delivers a breakout performance as Susie and Stanley Tucci was so convincingly evil as Harvey that he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
My praise kind of stops there, because the disjointed tonal shifts didn’t work for me. The comedic grandmother feels especially out of place. I’d say it would’ve worked better without the In-Between, but that would’ve made it more depressing. The grief the Salmon family feels trying to search for Susie’s killer is particularly realistic on its own. The only direct supernatural aspect is an outsider from Susie’s school sensing her presence. The closure and brutal justice I was hoping Harvey would receive, ended up feeling disappointing. The Lovely Bones saves itself with a positive message wishing us all to have a long and happy life.