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The Lovely Bones – A Review

Cătălina Cîrnațu, 10D

"The Lovely Bones" is a deplorable film with this message: If you're a 14-year-old girl who has been brutally raped and murdered by a serial killer, you have a lot to look forward to. You can reunite in heaven with the other young people who died at the hands of the same perpetrator, where you can look down on your grieving family members and realise what a wonderful person you were. Yes, you miss your friends, but how great is it that your fellow fatalities come dancing to greet you in a meadow of wildflowers?

The filmmakers of this movie don't appear to have given much thought to the psychology of teenage girls, much less to the prospect that some people believe that there is no such thing as Heaven, and certainly not to the likelihood that, if there is, it won't look like a joyful reunion of recent Facebook friends. In its retelling of the story, the serial killer nearly comes across as a hero for saving these young women from the arduous process of maturation and sending them straight to the Elysian Fields. The movie's main effect on me was to make me squirm.

It is based on Alice Sebold's best-selling book, which everyone seemed to be reading a few years ago. If it is true to the book, which I pray it isn't, then millions of Americans are terrified. Making the victim a charming, poetic narrator is disturbing, the murder of a young kid is a tragedy, and the killer is a monster. This film promotes the idea that even bad things happen for a reason, and that their victims are now happy as a result. Isn't it lovely to believe that? I believe it's best if they never occur. But why act as though they don't hurt if they do? They are no longer alive.

However, I'm confident that Sebold's book is sensitive and well-written. The director, Peter Jackson, is rumoured to have changed certain details to fit his own "vision," which in some scenes employs almost as many visual effects as his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. A careful screenplay and sensitive, subdued acting would be a better way to handle this issue. It's hardly a heartwarming tale. Perhaps Jackson's team made the mistake of worrying the novel was too grim. But countless readers must be aware that things aren't like this. Teenage girls who are obsessed with doom — the "Twilight" crowd — may be the intended demographic.

Susie Salmon is the lovely bones' proprietor (played by Saoirse Ronan, a very talented young actress, who cannot be faulted here). Susie is in a fantasy world where heaven resembles a little bit of a Flower Power environment, which she may have envisioned if she had been assassinated in 1973. It seems to me that – and this is my personal opinion - because it is outside of time and space, heaven would not have any colours or a lack of colours; rather, it would be a state devoid of any senses. There wouldn't even be thought, much less narrating. You don't walk around thinking in an eternity spent in the midst of boundless goodness "Man! Is this awesome!" You are just that. Many theologians are on my side in this argument.

But no. Susie watches from the Valhalla of the movie set as her father (Mark Wahlberg) tries to solve the case on his own while her mother (Rachel Weisz) laments. There isn't much of a case to solve; we know who the killer is almost immediately, and according to the Law of Economy of Characters, that is whom he has to be because (a) he is played by a famous actor who would otherwise be unnecessary, and (b) there is no one else in the film who could be the killer. Here's the bittersweet stuff. Weisz and Wahlberg do a good job as parents. All they need to do is be persuasive as parents who have lost their daughter since the pyrotechnics and special effects are primarily upstairs. They achieve this with tender subtlety. In keeping with the Shakespearean tradition that every tragedy requires its clown, we also get to meet one of Susie's grandmothers (Susan Sarandon), a reckless drinker who enters the scene to provide hard-boiled comedic relief. She's good, too, I suppose. Jackson is to blame for the entire movie.

It succeeds despite the fact that I doubt its message. On its own terms, it fails. It is not emotionally believable that this girl, who has gone through these traumas and appears to be destined to remain 14 years old her whole life (despite being cleaned up and sporting a new wardrobe), would give produce this heavenly being. What's left for us to be sorry for? She seems to be living a perfect life in heaven, one that many of us desire.

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