Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I can only imagine how the pitch meetings went for the producers who chose to take on the task of making Alice Sebolds novel 'The Lovely Bones' into a feature film. A HUGE feature film. But Peter Jackson is the driving force behind it so the studio has to at least listen. You can see them telling the studio that this is a story about a young girl who is raped and murdered, but its not so bad because she kinda goes to heaven... along with other girls who have been raped and murdered... and looks over her family. It's sweet actually. If you can get past the rape and murder of a young girl. And the fact that we spend an awful lot of time in the movie hanging out with the serial killing pedophile rapist. It's a family film. Kind of. Think 'The Princess Diaries' meets 'Silence of the Lambs'. If I was a studio boss I wouldn't have greenlit this movie. Especially to the tune of ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS. It had to help the greenlight process that Mark Wahlberg signed on followed by a couple of academy award winners in Susan Sarandon and Rachel Weisz, then toss in everybodyís favorite Stanley Tucci who might've turned in one of the most chilling performances ever in a movie. Nonetheless, despite all this talent, this is a movie about a murdered child. A movie I wish to God in Heaven I could go back in time and advise myself not to have seen it.

Susie Salmon, whistfully played by young actress Saoirse Ronan, is a typical 1970's era fourteen year old girl who is unsure about herself, wears corduroy bellbottoms, has posters of David Cassidy on the wall of her bedroom and deals with parents who she is convinced don't understand her but parents she knows loves her. Let's truncate this because what we're waiting for is for Susie to die. We know this going into the movie that Susie is going to die and even if you werenít aware of this, Susie informs us more than once via narration that she soon will die. No, check that, that she will be murdered. So while we would like to get wrapped up into Susie's life and the fact that she is a kid that loves photography, has saved her baby brother's life, and has a big crush on a boy, it is difficult for any of that to take a hold because of the overriding sense of dread that Susie will soon be murdered.

So we meet the Salmon's neighbor and Susie's killer George Harvey (Tucci). In a rather extended scene, after watching George extensively plot out his murder plan, he leads Susie into his death trap and kills her. He rapes her too, and while we spent quite a bit of uncomfortable time in this movie looking at various images of dead little girls we were at least spared that.

As you might imagine Susie's family is practically destroyed by her death, though there is no body found. Another tasty nugget of distastefulness that's being saved for later. Her father (Wahlberg) canít let the murder go, her mother (Weisz) refuses to face up to the murder, her grandma (Sarandon) drinks herself into submission and her sister (Rose McIver) thinks she knows who the killer is. Susie for her part just hangs out in the colorful and playful land of the 'in-between' watching over her family, longing for the boy she will never kiss and building up hate for her murderer. A murderer who seems to have a real murder jones for the Salmon girls across the street.

'The Lovely Bones' is as depressing and as sad a movie that I can recall seeing. Ever. I would rather be locked in a room and forced to watch 'No Coutnry for Old Men' over and over again for a week straight than watch this one more time. I understand that the colorful scenes of the land of the 'in-between' that the character of Susie was frolicking in, along with another girl named Holly (Nikki SooHoo), a girl who I'm sure most who have seen the movie will know that she's a murder victim too, were supposed to lessen the sting of the whole murder/rape issue. Theory being, I guess, if you are suffering through the catastrophic event of losing a child through murder, don't worry, that child is skiing in Heaven right now. But the movie could never get past the overwhelming weight of first having to wait for this child to be murdered, next watch that child be murdered and finally spend quality time with the murderer while the dead child looks on. Let's make a correction. It's not that the movie couldn't get past this but more accurately I couldn't get past this.

Do you know why 'Avatar' will probably be the biggest grossing movie in cinema history, despite the fact that thematically speaking 'Avatar' is at best mediocre? Because that movie takes you away. Maybe too well. 'The Lovely Bones' on the other hand brings you back. Itís not that ĎAvatarí and the like are these overwhelmingly joyful movies but 'The Lovely Bones' takes great effort to drop you into a terrible reality that 99.99 percent of us would do ANYTHING to have this reality not exist. To that extent I guess this movie was very effective. Stanley Tucci was truly hateful in this movie. Wahlberg and Weisz effectively transmitted overwhelming sorrow and Saoirse Ronan made her character so alive that this made having to witness her murder all the more upsetting.

When I left the theater after seeing this film there was no feeling of joy or satisfaction or even resolution for that matter. There was this sick empty feeling in the pit of my stomach that replaced the feeling dread I felt while watching 'The Lovely Bones'. It was difficult to sleep because my dreams were filled with disturbing images of dead little girls and the hateful vision of George Harvey. I don't know about you but I don't go to the movies to feel this way.

Of course this is just me personally relaying to you my feelings towards this movie and your experience should you choose to see it, or if you already have seen it may be completely different. I sincerely hope so. Nobody should exit a theater feeling depressed the way that I felt after watching 'The Lovely Bones'.

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