“The Lovely Bones”
The Director of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Peter Jackson,
tries his hand at converting this wildly popular book to the screen.
He’s not afraid of fantasy, and there’s a considerable amount of
it. The plot is well-known, and
even if you arrive at the theater not knowing what will happen, they tell you
anyway: a 14-year-old girl is
murdered by her neighbor. Knowing
what’s going to happen actually builds the suspense, as we strongly identify
with the sweet, naïve teenager who simply made the mistake of being too
trusting, and it was the last mistake she ever made.
Saorise Ronan is perfectly cast in this role as the willowy, winsome
Susie, who narrates throughout. Yes,
it takes her a while to realize she’s actually dead.
She floats in a kind of benign Purgatory, neither heaven nor earth nor
hell, presumably because she has unfinished business and can’t move on to
wherever spirits go. When she
visits her old haunts, so to speak, some of her family members are especially
attuned to her presence, which, in a way, only makes things worse, because it
postpones the closure of their grieving process.
Her kindly father (Mark Wahlberg) just cannot accept that she’s never
been found. He’s obsessed with
hunting down her killer, even when the police have assured him that the trail
is too cold. He becomes
emotionally unavailable to his wife (Rachel Weisz), who finally just leaves in
frustration, leaving him there to raise their other two children with her
alcoholic, chain-smoking mother (uncharacteristically overplayed by Susan
Sarandon). Susie, still narrating
this story, alternates between dwelling in a kind of Elysian Fields with
gazebo, or a rolling plain with a central tree of life (Genesis 3:3?), where
birds comprise the leaves, or a deep forest where she encounters another young
girl who won’t tell her who she is or where they are.
While the visual effects are spectacular, as a viewer, you’ll be
frustrated if you’re the type that demands a linear narrative, marching to
an orderly conclusion. We’re
sort of meandering in the netherworld here.
Susie’s still dwelling on the pubescent frustration of not quite
reaching the point of kissing her first boyfriend.
We never see the actual murder, we just know it happened, which makes
the killer (expertly rendered by Stanley Tucci) appear to be more of a creepy
loner than a savage predator.
It’s a common premise of horror movies that the “undead” are that
way because they have unfinished business;
usually that their perpetrators have not been brought to justice.
But this isn’t a slasher flick, and the prurient is merely implied.
There is, in the end, a sort of “instant karma’s going to get
you” kind of moral, which is of interest to Christians and others who
believe in some sort of ultimate justice in the universe.
Otherwise, there’s a lot that goes unresolved.
Life goes on. Even for
those who existence is now unexpectedly centered elsewhere.
“The Lovely Bones” is one of those panoramic cinematic experiences
that are best enjoyed in a movie theater, hopefully uninterrupted.
Don’t try to solve it or hurry it;
just allow it to set its own pace and assume its own world-view.
You just might be enchanted by “The Lovely Bones.”
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace