“The Lovely Bones” is that haunting tale of young Susie who, after her murder, attempts to come to grips with what has happened while clinging to her family. At times heart-wrenching and at times pretentious, the film takes a chilling story and tries far too hard to wrap it up in a shell of artistry.
The setup to the film is good, with Susie providing a voiceover of her life – the life that was. It drags on for too long, though, and culminates in what really was an expertly done bit of suspense – except for the fact that the viewer knows what’s going to happen if they know what the movie is about. No matter how expertly you tease us about young Susie’s fate, we KNOW going in that she dies, so it won’t work. That said, the acting and build-up are suspenseful and you really do start to wonder exactly how and when it’s going to come crashing down.
Mark Wahlberg is never going to win a Best Actor award, but he works in his role as a father trying to come grips with the loss of his daughter and unsure of which way is up or what to do. The rest of the performances are strong, although Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon seem wasted in their roles. The real problem here is Peter Jackson. He blew us away with “The Lord of the Rings” and we’ve let him believe he can do no wrong. This is yet another bloated film that really should have been trimmed down quite a bit. Every shot is an experiment and a whole lot of it is just pretentious. His view of the afterlife is ripped straight from “What Dreams May Come”, but with more fluff and less substance. All in all, the film just seems to go on forever with most of the tense moments wasted when there’s no payoff. The finale, such as it is, delivers only disappointment with no closure for the family or the viewer.
This could and probably should have been a good movie. All of the pieces were there. Maybe the book is better. Maybe a more discerning, critical and self-aware director could have focused it more. In the end, though, we’re left with a pretty pale afterlife drama that comes up short when placed next to films like “What Dream May Come” or “Jacob’s Ladder”.