Elements don't cohese in Jackson's 'Bones'

Article Published: Jan. 21, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Elements don't cohese in Jackson's 'Bones'

Saoirse Ronan stars in 'The Lovely Bones.'

I'm not sure exactly what director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) was trying to accomplish with his adaptation of Alice Sebold's novel, "The Lovely Bones," a painfully depressing film about a 14-year-old girl who is murdered and watches her family, from heaven, as they cope with her murder.

That the film is painfully depressing is not necessarily a complaint - of course, a film about a sweet teenage girl murdered by a serial killer is depressing. After the murder, the girl, Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan, Atonement), goes to some heaven-like place that some refer to as the "in between." She watches as her father, Jack (Mark Wahlberg), becomes obsessed with solving her murder, pushing away her mother (Rachel Weisz) in the process. Susie also watches her killer (Stanley Tucci in a shockingly effective dramatic role) as he attempts to avoid being discovered.

I think audiences will be split on this film. Through lovely imagery and Susie's narration, Jackson attempts to create as uplifting a tale as possible (at parts it feels like American Beauty), and this might work for some viewers. Other people will just feel uneasy, I think, since no resolution can make up for how horrible Susie Salmon's fate truly was.

For me, the latter was true - I left The Lovely Bones feeling very uneasy, but in no way optimistic. While the film has a lot of pieces that work well - the performances from Walhberg and Tucci are top-notch, and Susie's journey through the "in between" features the kind of gorgeous, jaw-dropping images that people usually go to art galleries hoping to see.

All of the film's elements, I believe, work individually. There's probably three or four different movies running through The Lovely Bones, whether the story of a family's inability to cope or a look into the life of a killer. But there are just too many ideas and difficult emotions flowing through these135 minutes, and instead of finding the answer to some cosmic mystery, I think most people will just be saddened by how real the film and its events truly are. If anything, the film simply illustrates the age-old notion that life is not fair, and sometimes you just have to move on.

I must admit that I had not read Sebold's novel but know many people who loved it, making me wonder if people who have read the novel might get more out of the film. Then again, I would also wonder why anyone would want to revisit such a depressing story.

Though I don't think Bones works, I applaud Jackson for returning to the kind of gritty human story than worked so well in 1994's Heavenly Creatures. After finding huge success with Rings and King Kong, he could have simply stuck with loud action films guaranteed to make hundreds of millions, but he instead chose to create a challenging film about the worst in humanity.

It's also possible that Jackson was simply not the right fit for the material. The "in between" was created using a ton of special effects - the film was reportedly shot on a budget of $100 million - and it might have worked better with a grittier, darker feel on a much, much smaller budget.

The Lovely Bones is rated PG-13 for "mature thematic material involving disturbing violent content and images, and some language." Despite the rating, however, I would highly recommend against taking anyone under the age of 18 due to the film's extremely dark subject matter.

The Lovely Bones is currently playing at the Regal Cinemas 7 in Boone.

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