Murder Changes Everythingby Dave Durbach / 18.02.2010
Narrated post mortem by the victim of her neighbourhood psycho, The Lovely Bones retraces the last few days of Suzie Salmon and her family’s subsequent efforts to come to terms with her death.
Instead of simply disappearing or floating off to heaven, Suzie languishes in “the blue horizon between heaven and earth” – part fantasyland, part real life (early 70s suburban Pennsylvania). Here she wanders, accompanied at times by her killer’s other victims, able to make fleeting contact with her family, until they can solve her murder and put her lovely remains to rest.
Time passes. Grandma (Susan Sarandon) moves in while the once-happy family unit slowly untangles – Suzie’s mother (Rachel Weisz) being intent on moving on, her father (Mark Wahlberg) obsessed with finding her killer. In the unassuming house down the street, George Harvey’s teenage bloodlust returns, his eye this time on Suzie’s sister Lindsey. Intuition leads Lindsey and her father to suspect Harvey of being the guilty party, and so begins their quest for evidence. Suzie, meanwhile, keeps watch over proceedings, unknowingly willing them on.
For a film dealing with the afterlife and narrated by a 14-year-old girl, The Lovely Bones is impressively free of clichés (save for a corny ‘first kiss’ narrative). Based on the 2002 novel by Alice Sebold, it’s essentially a story about learning to let go – Suzie of the world, her family of her. A large part of the film takes part in Suzie’s purgatory, impressively rendered by director Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, King Kong). It’s the acting that carries the film and sets it above other adolescent tragedies and kiddy-fiddler thrillers. Suzie is played by Saoirse Ronan (Oscar nominee in 2007 for the shitty Atonement). Stanley Tucci steals the show as the creepy Mr. Harvey and deserves his Oscar nomination for the part. Wahlberg and Weisz play the shattered parents to a tee, while Sarandon provides some comic relief as the young-at-heart grandmother.
All in all, good escapist fun that will appeal to the teenage girl in you.
The Lovely Bones opens in SA on February 19th.