Tagline: The story of a life and everything that came after…
Synopsis: Susie Salmon, Salmon like the fish, is a 14-year-old girl with her whole life ahead of her until she gets murdered by a serial killer who happens to live next door. But she finds a way to keep a watch over her grieving family, the man who took her life and the police detective struggling to find her killer.
Meat & Potatoes: The first thing that struck me here was Stanley Tucci‘s transformation into the monstrous character of Mr. Harvey. So complete was his work that many who have watched the film didn’t know who the ‘creepy guy’ was. Bravo Mr. Tucci. I’ve been a fan for some time and this portrayal is exactly the kind of thing that should get you better and better work. The second thing I noticed was the assembled ‘team’ of writers – Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, & Peter Jackson. Now while this tag team will bring us part 1 & 2 of The Hobbit (as writers/producers) they did a dismal job of working ‘together’ on The Lovely Bones. It was almost as if each writer took a particular part of the script, either 1/3’s or perhaps the two distinct worlds that play through the story. Whatever the collective or not so collective arrangement, the writing is at times brilliant mixed with unequal and often overshadowing clichés, tiresome voice over, and needless exposition that takes the film down a path few are willing to go for a hundred and thirty five minutes.
I really wanted to like the film and found the setup and execution of the plot and characters in the first act nicely done. I think Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz who play the grieving parents were miscast, as well as Imperioli as the ‘sad detective’ who just didn’t have enough screen time to make his character interesting. As I mentioned, Stanley Tucci was amazing here and Susan Sarandon’s portrayal of the straight talking no bullshit grandmother was a breath of fresh air. She had many memorable moments, such as her revelation to her grand daughter that the first boy she kissed was a man. I had a difficult time with the voice over especially when imagery and acting was more than enough to convey the sense of loss, of wonder and disappointment better than anyone telling us the same. Saoirse Ronan was a strong 14 year old as Susie Salmon and I look forward to seeing more from her. All in all the fact that three writers put this together reminds me of the saying, too many cooks spoil the broth or soup or movie, in this case. The story was loose and at times predictable, the characters often hallowed out by an inability to grasp the serious and emotionally demanding material. Like other films I’ve reviewed, I’m glad I waited to watch this one at home, glad that I can discuss it with those who have also seen it, but it’s not a film that will resonate and will most likely be forgotten in a short time.
The Closer: Watch The Lovely Bones for stand-out performances by Stanley Tucci and Susan Sarandon. If you’re fans of Mark Wahlberg and/or Rachel Weisz you’re not going to find very believable roles here as grieving parents and if this is Peter Jackson’s follow up to King Kong — well, at least we have The Lord of the Rings trilogy.