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'Lovely Bones' fails in jump to theater Akron Beacon Journal

When I read The Lovely Bones not long ago, I asked myself if the book, as good as it is, is also unfilmable.

Based on the movie Peter Jackson has made from Alice Sebold's novel, the answer to that question is yes. But if you really want to see how good an actor he is, go rent Blind Date, which he also directed and wrote, and which came out on DVD recently. But that may simply be a way of letting Jackson off a very large, ugly hook. It also has more emotional force in a matter of minutes than Jackson manages to muster in this entire film.

Similarly, Saoirse Ronan, who plays Susie, proved she was a formidable actress in Atonement, but here is required mainly to be big-eyed and endearing. Again and again, his Lovely Bones hammers us with significance, slow motion, throbbing music, where Sebold had a more delicate, and more effective, touch. On the other hand, Wahlberg does not come close to meeting the demands of his role — which he had to fill shortly as production began, after Ryan Gosling abruptly dropped out. But that may simply be a way of letting Jackson off a very large, ugly hook. The story of The Lovely Bones, both book and movie, is told by Susie Salmon, a 14-year-old who has been raped and murdered. But he has proven absolutely the wrong man for this adaptation.

 


Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal, in the HeldenFiles Online blog at http://heldenfels.ohio.com, on Facebook and on Twitter. It's not that Sarandon is bad as much as it is that the movie, especially with its choppy storytelling, does not really know what to do with her.

Still, I have seen Sarandon be much better in other films. He tosses out the details of many characters' lives and emotional arcs in favor of labored suspense — yet at the same time shrinks from some of the most resonant ugliness in Sebold's rendition, turning away when she forced us to look at what people do to each other.

I am not saying you cannot change a book for a movie. Up in the Air onscreen has significant differences from Akron native Walter Kirn's book, but there are also strong thematic and character connections, and each stands on its own as art. From heaven (or, in the movie, a place between Earth and heaven), she can see the people from her life and how they deal with her absence — among them the man who killed her. He is clearly more interested in the villain than the victims. Because The Lovely Bones onscreen indicates that Jackson, who co-wrote the script and directed the film, has absolutely no understanding of what is so valuable and heart-rending in Sebold's novel.

Skilled with the big canvas and flourishes of The Lord of the Rings, Jackson is clumsy when dealing with the human heart, awkward with emotion, uneasy with the spiritual. Again and again, his Lovely Bones hammers us with significance, slow motion, throbbing music, where Sebold had a more delicate, and more effective, touch. Because The Lovely Bones onscreen indicates that Jackson, who co-wrote the script and directed the film, has absolutely no understanding of what is so valuable and heart-rending in Sebold's novel.

Skilled with the big canvas and flourishes of The Lord of the Rings, Jackson is clumsy when dealing with the human heart, awkward with emotion, uneasy with the spiritual. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 and rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com .

 

When I read The Lovely Bones not long ago, I asked myself if the book, as good as it is, is also unfilmable.

Based on the movie Peter Jackson has made from Alice Sebold's novel, the answer to that question is yes. A movie can even be greater than the book from which it sprang, The Godfather being one example.

Rather, The Lovely Bones is simply an enormous mistake, a ham-fisted rendering of a book which deserved something longer and more thoughtful.

Of course, it is a challenging piece to translate to the screen. He is clearly more interested in the villain than the victims. Jackson has a deft hand with colorful landscapes and elaborate effects (although right now everyone takes second chair to Avatar when it comes to effects). Smart Gosling. Same thing with Tucci, who has garnered some praise for his performance, and who is fine here. And Susie in death has as much to learn about life as the people still living do.

While the book followed many people along their often pain-stricken paths, the film focuses mainly on her parents (played by Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz) and on the killer, played by Stanley Tucci.

Susan Sarandon, playing Susie's grandmother, is also around, although with much of the flair but less of the wisdom that her character has in the book. He tosses out the details of many characters' lives and emotional arcs in favor of labored suspense — yet at the same time shrinks from some of the most resonant ugliness in Sebold's rendition, turning away when she forced us to look at what people do to each other.



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