The Lovely Bones

Director: Peter Jackson (2009)
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Stanley Tucci, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz
Find it: IMDB, Amazon

This movie is how I'd imagine a Nightmare On Elm Street prequel should be. In fact, I now believe they missed a trick in not casting Stanley Tucci in the remake. He completely owns this movie; even more than its ostensible star, Saoirse Ronan.

But we shouldn't make light of such a movie. The Lovely Bones is about child murder and how it affects the victim's family and what would happen if said victim was watching from The Other Side, and helping Daddy catch her killer, like a more depressing Randall & Hopkirk Deceased and nothing like Randall & Hopkirk Deceased. Ronan is fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon, who lives an idyllic sort of life with Mummy (Weisz) and Daddy (Wahlberg) and her two younger siblings. One horrific evening, Susie falls foul of murderous George Harvey (Tucci) when she unwittingly enters his underground paedo den. She's raped and murdered, which Director Peter Jackson wisely keeps off-screen. Well, it is only rated 12A, after all.

But Susie isn't entirely gone. She's trapped in a sort of Limbo that looks like an advert for banking or life insurance or something. She watches her family grieve and fall apart a bit, and she watches Horrible Harvey, hoping he'll one day get his comeuppance. You'll hope so too: Harvey is played with stomach-churning sliminess by an almost unrecognizable Stanley Tucci. It makes sense that The Lovely Bones is set in the 1970s - in this paedo-sensitive day and age, Harvey's game would be scuppered within moments of his stepping into a new neighborhood. I haven't seen someone look so obviously noncey since The King Paedo in Moonwalker. Another advantage of the 1970s means that the poor Salmon family don't have the indignity of their phones being tapped by the News Of The World.

Current affairs everybody!
And yes, now that you mention it, Rupert does look like an aged Harvey...

And Susie Salmon is as adorable as Harvey is horrid, which makes the first quarter of the movie very hard to watch. It's a relief that Salmon's murder is as tastefully done as is possible with such subject matter. I seriously considered switching over during the run-up, but it's all over with before (literally) anyone knows what's just happened. The script and direction also thankfully skirts around the rape stuff. It's an upsetting movie, but done with the utmost tastefulness. Indeed: the director of Bad Taste has made a tasteful movie about possibly the most tasteless topic out there.

The acting is great (even Marky Wahlberg is on good form), the imagery beautiful and the direction brilliant. But still The Lovely Bones feels like it's missing something, playing it a little too safe. The visuals are wonderful, but there's surprisingly little emotional depth for a movie about a murdered fourteen-year-old girl. Which is good. I cried like a bitch at Jurassic Park and had an emotional breakdown at Mary & Max. Vapid eeriness and comic-book villainy I can handle.

The Lovely Bones is never a pleasant movie, but it is an intriguing one. The imagery is warm, the story oddly uplifting and the horror horrific. It plays things safe, but that's probably a very good thing in this case.

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