Posts Tagged ‘Saoirse Ronan’

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REVIEW: The Lovely Bones (2009)

January 26, 2010

The Lovely Bones is quite a complicated film that can best be described in quite simple terms: a cinematic mess. Perhaps unfair expectations were placed upon the project because of Peter Jackson’s past work, but his effort on this one seems to be considerably less apparent. Nearly everything about the film’s structure and execution seems to fall apart at some point and almost the only thing about it worthy of significant praise is its vivid and colorful visuals, which don’t even seem to fit in or provide much purpose to begin with. And in the end, sadly, this film, that originally seemed like it had such potential, ends up virtually nowhere and leaves the viewer considerably unsatisfied.

The story is a unique tale of a young girl’s murder and the aftermath, including her family’s subsequent emotional breakdown, her father’s relentless search for the murderer, and her journeys through the odd, colorful limbo she’s trapped inside of until both she and her family willingly move on. The story is accompanied by quite an impressive cast and crew list. As mentioned before, Peter Jackson directs with his usual writing crew- Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens (Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong)- who took on the responsibility of adapting Alice Sebold’s 2002 novel of the same name. British breakout star Saoirse Ronan plays the protagonist, 14 year-old murder victim Susie Salmon. Mark Wahlberg plays her obsessive father, Stanley Tucci is the creepy and deceptive killer, Rachel Weisz plays Susie’s mother, and Susan Sarandon takes on the role of the eccentric grandmother who provides comic relief in the way she manages to down at least one sip of alcohol in almost every scene she’s in.

And while the story is certainly unique and the cast list makes one hopeful, something just doesn’t go right in the execution of it all. The pace jumps around far too often for the viewer to keep up, the tone never seems to officially establish itself and stay consistent in any way, and the dialogue is simply dreadful at times. The acting potential was certainly present and Saoirse Ronan, Wahlberg, and Tucci all seemed to provide strong efforts, but they received no assistance from the script whatsoever. In fact, the consistently bad dialogue and frequently changing atmosphere seem to bring down the performances and make everything seem too over-dramatic– an unfortunate result of such potential. As a whole, the film just seemed to try too hard to be too much.

The film’s focus is all over the place and at certain times, within a span of just five minutes, it might switch between the perspectives of three or four different characters. And while the film is certainly long enough to take on such a feat of presenting multiple important characters to the audience, it never quite manages to do so in a substantial way. Instead, the movie ends with none of the several major characters completely developing and the audience walks away with no true care for any of them. And this is perhaps the film’s biggest problem– it never does appear to know just what it is trying to accomplish. Even if it does prove to be even slightly emotionally engaging, it’s not without odd and out-of-place scenes every other couple of minutes. Focus frequently switches from Susie Salmon’s fantasy-like encounters in limbo to her father’s desperate attempts to find his daughter’s killer to the comedic acts of the grandmother to the sudden dramatic breakdown and exodus of the mother. Perhaps the editing is partly to blame as well, but it’s hard to believe that a film crew can’t find a way to use 2 hours and 16 minutes to evolve and develop a couple of characters without throwing too much at the viewer in each couple of minutes. It seems half-hearted and incomplete.

Adding to the jumble and confusion, each character’s short-term and long-term conflicts seemed, at times, unclear. In fact, much of the time our supposed “main character” spent her time standing around in the beautiful limbo that’s been so carefully crafted (perhaps too carefully), not doing anything apart from giving narration that sounds like poorly written spiritual poetry from the Victorian era that eventually amounts to nothing and seems like filler. In a similar fashion, I think it’s fair to say that the entire movie came off as a pretentious “artistic” film that no one understands and that the filmmakers are apparently too brilliant to have to clearly explain. One may argue that the audience isn’t supposed “to understand” it all. “But the audience is supposed to experience Susie’s confusion and share her feeling of being lost” is not a valid counterargument. There’s a fine line between captivating the audience with a world of wonder and majestic daze and leaving so much unexplained that causes them to lose interest out of boredom and confusion.

And if you ask me, on top of all of those flaws, the amazing and vibrant visuals of Susie’s “in-between” serve no purpose but to provide some indication as to where $100 million went with this film’s production. Although I haven’t read the novel, I have heard that these colorful landscapes do help to capture the tone of Sebold’s story.But Peter Jackson overuses them to the point where they simply seem out of place- as if their repetitive appearances were only meant to charm the audience into a false feeling that the film was somehow improved by them (*cough* Avatar) and to act as a constant reminder that Jackson’s team knows how to use their computers (and if you saw any of the Lord of the Rings films, let’s face it, you already knew that).

In the end, The Lovely Bones is just a mess of plenty of things that could have amounted to something but never really do due to lack of focus and development. Peter Jackson and his team should stick to epic war battles and dramatic tales of world danger.

Sorry, Peter. I really did try hard to like it.

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