The Lovely Bones
The problems with Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Alice Sebold’s popular novel run much deeper than the usual stumbling block of having a macabre subject matter. The casting of Mark Wahlberg as the grieving dad is seriously misjudged, especially as he seems to have started where he left off with 2008’s natural disaster thriller The Happening. Susan Sarandon isn’t much cop either as she overacts her way through the role of no-nonsense grandma called in to help after the death of 14-year-old Susie (Saoirse Ronan). Even the usually bankable Rachel Weisz struggles with a script from Jackson and his regular co-writer Fran Walsh that treats subtlety like it’s a foreign word.
It starts off promisingly as we watch Susie being lured in and murdered by her neighbour (Stanley Tucci), a comic version of the evil loner. The rape that is a feature of the novel is merely hinted at here, the first sign that this adaptation will shirk away from the darkest elements of the novel and instead concentrate on the efforts to find the murderer by police detective Len Fenerman (Michael Imperioli) and the girl’s unhinged father.
Jackson henceforth gets the tone and aesthetic completely wrong. While in the book, Susie resides in a 14-year-old’s idea of heaven Jackson seems to have designed the movie equivalent in a Salvador Dali museum. It looks sumptuous but the visuals seem to have only added to the budget as it’s totally out of place in the story as it stands. As with Jackson’s King Kong the desire for showmanship gets in the way of characterisation and plot. It’s a shame as Sofia Coppola and Nanni Moretti proved with The Virgin Suicides and The Son’s Room that the subject of grief following the death of youth can be made euphoric, addictive and deeply affecting.
General release from Fri 19 Feb.