Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Lovely Bones

It's taken me a few days to compose my thoughts for The Lovely Bones. I really enjoyed the Alice Sebold novel about a young girl who is brutally murdered and then watches over her family from a heavenly way station. But, and it's true confessions here, I was hoping that the ending of the movie would be more satisfying than the one the book provided. It wasn't.

The movie takes the story in slightly different directions, even if they didn't change the ending. Some of the events of the family are changed around so as to be more dramatic. The story is still the same, however. Director Peter Jackson spares us the details of the rape and murder, although he gives us enough, scattered throughout the story, to ensure that we definitely know what happened. The film has no less of an impact, and I don't think it's appropriate for young teens to watch. Young teens that were Susie Salmon's age.

In December 1973, Susie Salmon ("like the fish") takes a shortcut home from school through a cornfield, and is approached by a neighbor, George Harvey (Stanley Tucci), who wants to show her the kids' hideout he just built below ground. She can't resist, unfortunately, and after he's done, he dismembers her body and burns it, keeping only a charm from her bracelet as a keepsake. He also keeps his book of diagrams as to how he built the shelter, and stores the book in a drawer in his house.

The Salmon family is at first reluctant to accept her death, but then the police find the playhouse and her hat. And her blood.

Throughout all of this, we watch Susie explore her new land. It's a way station to heaven, according to the other girl who resides there. And it's beautiful, especially with special effects. This Susie, however, is different from the book in that she's emotionally distraught that all of this is going on down below. She visits temporarily, but without substance, and although she has a connection with her father, is unable to show him what to do. Or whom to suspect.

Part of the book's charm is that Susie is rather placid, a storyteller, watching but not reacting. She wants justice, but I did not sense any need for vengeance. This Susie, however, seems to want both. And she leads us into wanting both as well. It is for that reason that I recommend the movie. Saoirse Ronan's Susie is one powerful little girl. And we feel her loss.

Also recommended is Stanley Tucci, rather unrecognizable in longish blonde hair. Mr. Harvey's smile seems legitimate, all the more scary when you realize what a vile thing George Harvey really is. And that this isn't his first crime. Tucci is unbelievably good. It's great to see some notoriety come his way, even though I may never be able to look at him in the same way again.

In spite of the rather unsatisfying ending, and the fact that the story is changed, I would have to say this Lovely Bones is a compelling story about a family that deals with the death of their jewel. Thumb's up.


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