I've never read Alice Sebold's best-selling novel The Lovely Bones, but I'm pretty certain that she can't be overly pleased with how Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson adapted it. And believe me, it had all the makings of an Oscar winner with a cast that includes Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci and the film's young star, Saoirse Ronan. We might remember from her brilliant performance in Atonement in 2007.
The Lovely Bones takes places in the '70s and centers around 14 year-old Susie Salmon (Ronan) who is murdered by neighbourhood predator George Harvey (Tucci). She tells the tragic story of her death from the afterlife, where she can still see her family torn apart by their grief and her father Jack's (Wahlberg) determination to solve the mystery of her murder. Susie has a difficult time coming to terms with her own death and she is unable to fully enter heaven because of this. Meanwhile, liberal Grandma Lynn (Sarandon) steps in the picture helping restore some order in the grief-stricken Salmon household, adding some oddly-placed moments of comic relief. With the passing of time and a lack of additional evidence, the police department allocates fewer resources in finding Susie's murderer. Both Jack and sister Clarissa (Amanda Michalka) are certain however, that the murderer is in fact Harvey but it all means little.
This is a very beautiful film to watch with some very cutting edge CGI animation, but admittedly, it takes away from what should overall be a dark, heavy mood. My biggest problem with this story however, is that there seems to be a great amount of attention placed on building suspense and tension when in the end, a resolution is met by karma, not true justice; this is a big let-down. Also, some overly-romanticized dialogue in Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Jackson's screenplay make for some awkward moments, as we are forced to believe that this 14 year-old girl had experienced the makings of unequivocal love with her senior crush Ray Singh (Reece Ritchie). And despite some Oscar buzz for Tucci's haunting performance here, I've seen him do much better work in films like Julie & Julia and The Devil Wears Prada. The same can be said about Ronan, one of the leading actresses of her generation, but simply this won't be remembered as her best work. Or at least I hope not anyway.
Paramount Pictures' The Lovely Bones is in theatres January 15, 2010 and perhaps is better watched without expectations. Grade: C