The Lovely Bones (2009)

Director Peter Jackson
Writers Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Rachel Weisz
Genre Drama
Tagline The story of a life and everything that came after...

Talk us through it

Susie is a fourteen year old growing up in suburban Pennsylvania during the early 1970s. She is just starting to experience life, boys, what she wants to be when she grows up, and the weird chick that she finally works out. Except for her dad, who is an Accountant with a sideline in building ships in bottles, life is pretty sweet for young Susie. Unfortunately for Susie one of her neighbors is a psycho driven to murder young girls.

After her murder Susie looks on from "the between" as her family try to come to terms with her death and her murderer starts eyeing up her younger sister. Susie must somehow come to terms with her desire for vengeance and having her family heal the deep rifts in their lives.


"My name is Salmon, like the fish. First name, Susie. I was fourteen years old when I was murdered on December 6th, 1973." - Susie

Peter Jackson's latest excursion into the surreal, it takes time to work out the moves this film is sending your way, is his best movie since Heavenly Creatures (1994). Sure PJ has done some big Hollywood blockbusters, has made a trilogy many said couldn't be made, and is legendary for his early splatter flicks, but for mine the 1994 movie was his best. The Lovely Bones in my opinion is a return to form for Peter Jackson. It should be noted that the movie also sees Jackson moving back to the dark genre in a far more successful fashion then Sam Raimi's recent cartoonish effort. Okay that's ensured I'm off side with about 95% of movie viewers, lets crack the icicle on The Lovely Bones.

Some of the most successful dark genre efforts are those that mix and match concepts between genres, picking themes and ideas to gain an overall effect and mood. Here Jackson dallies with the fantasy genre and dives into crime territory while still remaining firmly fixed in horror sphere. We get the fantasy elements via Susie's experiences in "the between", and Jackson is really nailing that visually, and the crime elements via a couple of her family members delving into just what happened to her on one fateful night. The audience knows who Susie's murderer is early on in the movie; it takes her family some time to work things out, though Susie's sister Lindsey has her suspicions.

Just when you think you have Jackson's movie gift wrapped and ready to send the Director has other elements coming at you in a sort of multi genre mixing pot. Susie's Grandmother, played excellently by the ever reliable Susan Sarandon, provides the comic relief and at stages completely steals the show. And to top it off we have one hell of an emotional roller coaster ride via the dramatic elements. Just how family members cope with Susie's death provides the major plot elements during the second block of the movie. I don't mind saying I even teared up at one stage as Susie's Dad finally had to realize his daughter wasn't coming home.

Naturally it's the horror elements that drive things toward an unforeseen resolution of sorts. A couple of people are aware of Susie's presence and half glimpse her, providing a sort of Ghost (1990) aspect to the movie. There's one scene where Jackson ramps up the tension beach buggy and really puts the pedal to the metal, you'll know the scene I'm talking about when you hit it. And Susie finding out about former victims was powerful both thematically and visually. Our resident psycho is pretty chilling into the bargain and when he starts planning for Lindsey to be his next victim I was expecting the worse. Jackson steers a pretty good path through his horror elements, doesn't belabor them at the cost of other movie elements, but will have you concerned about a couple of characters and their likely fates. Oh and Jackson dispenses with the gore, simply implying the nasty that happens off screen.

I think where Jackson really scores well with The Lovely Bones is with his handling of the visuals of "the between" and making the landscape reflect Susie's current emotional state. It's quite a stunning piece of movie making that will have true cinema fans sitting up and taking notice. From winter landscapes, through forests that look like they may harbor your worst nightmares, to sun drenched meadows Jackson has his mojo on and is hitting the beat with each realization of his fantasy landscape. It's quite stunning to watch and Jackson morphs like a wild night out at the Cross. I was particular taken by the bottled ships on the Ocean that go into wreck mode as Susie's father does his impersonation of a bull in a china shop. Standing ovation for Jackson there, it's both powerful and visually appealing for some reason.

Peter Jackson has nailed the early 1970s feel to things. Visually everything is spot on, check the detail in the background, people's way of speaking and mannerism simply screams out glitter rock times, and the props all look period authentic.

There are a couple of issues with The Lovely Bones that held me back from scoring the movie a perfect 10 from 10. In the middle section Jackson allows the movie to lag at one stage. That might have been due to a lull after the power packing first block of the movie and the full charge knockout blow delivered by the final block. But I did note things falling off from the adrenalin rush the rest of the movie provides us with; thankfully we're only talking about five minutes here. A couple of the plot angles could have been dropped I think without damaging the movie in any shape or form. I'm thinking of the Indian girl in particular who is basically a plot device, and one not needed by the demographics who will go and see The Lovely Bones. Also the whole title is pretty iffy for mine, I got the point of it and I guess the major thrust of the movie, but it seems slightly clumsy. Of course Jackson was restrained in this aspect by Alice Sebold's source novel.

Saoirse Ronan (Susie) goes full throttle at her role and delivers a charismatic performance. Dear I say it, Oscar nomination at worse in my stale opinion. Mark Wahlberg (Jack) delivers one of his best performances to date, I was loving his father role. Stanley Tucci (George) was chilling and hit the offbeat mannerism like the pro he is. I would rate Tucci's performance here alongside John Jarret's Mick Taylor, chilling and effective. And Rachel Weisz (Abigail) once again proves why she is one of the most bankable actresses currently working in Hollywood. Overall exactly casting and great performances from an ensemble cast.

Brian Eno of all people provided the score for The Lovely Bones and Eno was on his game. Eno effective captures the visuals, provides the chills as required, and gets with Jackson's pacing throughout. I don't say this very often, but go grab the CD when released. It's truly astonishing stuff.

Summary Execution

I was anticipating catching up with The Lovely Bones through the second half of 2009 and Peter Jackson didn't disappointment me when I finally got to see the movie. I'm simply astonished at the rampaging Jackson's ability behind the camera and the fact the kiwi Director sticks to his guns and doesn't allow the Hollywood system to dictate to him what movies he should or shouldn't make. Like M. Night Jackson is a stylist that goes his own way and delivers unique visions onto our screens. I'm just going to flat out state it, The Lovely Bones is one of the best movies to be released in 2009 and in a just world should be in the mix come Oscar night.

Critics have panned the movie and the cinema going public have not connected with the film in North America with a disastrous $312k result thus far. Considering Paramount sunk a cool $100 million into the project that's pretty much a major tank. Pearls before swine comes to mind considering the gross made by such shallow flicks as New Moon and Transformers 2. The Studio is going to have to rely heavily on the International markets, and there is some bright news there, at least from Down Under. Generally our cinema goers don't listen to Critics and The Lovely Bones is starting to show the benefit of a good word of mouth, with Friday the 1st of January showing a solid return for Jackson's movie. Fingers crossed the International markets pick up the slack on this movie.

If you haven't seen The Lovely Bones yet, and I guess most of you haven't, then rush out and catch it today at the cinema. One of the best movies of 2009, I can guarantee you will be aboard Peter Jackson's roller coaster of an emotional ride. I'm making no bones about this, the film is a lovely experience.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

Peter Jackson knocks one of the park...