I had actually seen bits and pieces of this some time ago. It was the same weekend I was returning from Houston. However, I was sick as a dog at my cousin Earl's house. It was a little difficult for me to effectively follow what was going on when I was running to the bathroom every fifteen minutes or so. What I did see I liked though. Therefore, I made it a point to one day sit down and watch it in its entirety. My procrastination gene didn't allow this to happen until just recently.
"The Lovely Bones" is the story of fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) who is just entering her teenage-crush years when she is abducted and murdered by her predatory neighbor, Mr. Harvey (Stanley Tucci). Susie's family slowly begins drifting apart emotionally trying to make sense of her loss as she finds herself in the "in-between" en route to heaven. Meanwhile, Mr. Harvey is confident he's covered his tracks enough to move on to his next victim, but Susie's younger sister, Lindsey (Rose McIver) and eventually even her father (Mark Wahlberg) begin to suspect he's not the harmless loner he makes himself out to be.
With this one being set in the 70s, it allowed for some nice nostalgia. It was more than just the J.C. Penney clothing that everyone was donning. It was the little things like the relevance of malls as a part of our culture. Something that lasted into right around the mid-80s. I couldn't help but smile when they had a scene where the local mall was having a fashion show. Remember when malls used to have corny events like that going on all the time? Malls were the epicenter of social networking before the internet came along.
One thing I didn't initially get was why Susie would go with Mr. Harvey in the first place. She made it a point of narrating near the beginning that certain people give her the "skeevies". Shouldn't she have picked up on the bad vibes that Harvey was giving off? Even the way he looked was pedophile creepy. However, the more they showed more folks in the movie, the more I realized that during that time period a lot of folks had that same look to them. It would make it harder to discern the good ones from the bad ones.
I also wasn't particularly feeling the flaw in logic with Harvey recording his plans in written form before he actually did them. I can understand the stupidity of him keeping evidence at his house (like Susie's body in a safe). Murderers do that all the time. But how many of them would write down their plot in a journal and keep that around too? Especially one that seemed to be as intelligent as Harvey was.
What did work extremely well was the imagery throughout the film. That's one thing that has always been director Peter Jackson's forte. He did it in the "Lord of the Rings" films by selecting the perfect locale to shoot that would complement the sprawling world depicted in the books. His tactic is different here as Susie's view of the in-between relies on CGI to recreate the vision of how that may appear. Naturally, none of us have a working knowledge of how such a place would look, but Jackson's interpretation was captivating.
The biggest asset of "The Lovely Bones" was the performance of the cast throughout. I'm normally not a huge Wahlberg fan, but he did do an exceptional job as a tortured father refusing to let his daughter go. Although I'm used to seeing Tucci in roles where he's pretentious and amusingly irritating, he was incredibly convincing as the closet child serial killer. But the highlight of the film was easily Ronan. If she plays her and/or her agent plays her cards right, she could very well be positioned to take over the spot that Dakota Fanning has since vacated.
I've heard some folks say they weren't too fond of the ending because of the way it dealt with Harvey's fate. You all know I like movies that don't wrap a finale up in a pretty bow for you. "The Lovely Bones" does a little to appease both angles so I can't fault them for that. The final act was the icing on the cake of a film that had already been quite filling.
My rating: A -