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|The Lovely Bones|
dir Peter Jackson
scr Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
prd Carolynne Cunningham, Peter Jackson, Aimee Peyronnet, Fran Walsh
with Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, Rose McIver, Michael Imperioli, Reece Ritchie, Nikki SooHoo, Carolyn Dando, Amanda Michalka, Thomas McCarthy
release US 11.Dec.09, UK 19.Feb.10
09/New Zealand DreamWorks 2h25
Boy-watchers: Ronan and Sarandon
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
This film is packed with involving performances, even though Jackson takes a bloated approach to what should be a quietly emotional drama. And in the end, the production design is so lush that it swamps the story's themes.
In 1973, Susie (Ronan) is a happy 14-year-old just beginning to blossom. Her crush on a fellow student (Ritchie) is about to culminate in her first kiss, but she's instead brutally murdered by a creepy neighbour (Tucci). Her parents (Wahlberg and Weisz) are distraught, and Grandma (Sarandon) needs to come help care for Susie's younger siblings (McIver and Christian Thomas Ashdale). Susie watches all of this from "my heaven", longing for her parents to recover their balance and aching for some form of revenge.
The central theme is that Susie's yearning for vengeance is preventing her parents from moving on, and it's also keeping her from resting in peace. As the months and years pass, she struggles to let go of her connections to her family and also to dislodge her killer's hold on her. This intriguing idea is more suited to a small-budget filmmaker forced to find subtle, creative ways to depict the interaction between the afterlife and the living world.
Jackson, of course, has no budgetary constraints, and indulges in constant eye-catching effects that are drenched in colour and symbolism. This luxuriant approach seems odd for a story this fatalistic; it's not likely to be a commercial hit no matter how glorious the digital artistry is. While some viewers will connect with the raw emotional tone, concepts of the cruelty of fate and the fragility of life are lost.
Even so, Ronan delivers another knock-out performance packed with nuance and meaning even though many of her scenes only require reaction shots. It's in her eyes that the film comes truly to life, as it were. The other standouts are Sarandon, who brazenly steals scenes in what's essentially a thankless role, and Tucci, who never resorts to stereotype in his portrayal of a sinister loner. Jackson, on the other hand, continually applies cliches around him, from shadowy angles that generate palpable suspense to a ludicrously over-the-top coda that erases any subtlety the film might have.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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