After first hearing about this and the director attached, accompanied by the artistic looking trailer, I genuinely thought it would be a serious Oscar contender. But it seems that every Tom, Dick, Harry and Roger Ebert despise it. And after viewing it myself, I can’t really see where all the hate for it comes from, but it certainly isn’t the emotional heartwrencher that the premise suggests it to be.
“My name is Salmon… Like the fish!” narrates the said character, Suzie Salmon. She is a typical 14 year old living in 1973 (no, she hasn’t travelled back in time; that’s the year it’s set) who loves photography and older men: a boy named Ray at her school who looks way too old to attend it. When walking home from school through a cut cornfield, she sees a neighbour named George Harvey. Now this guy is the living definition of a paedophile. They haven’t tried to disguise it by trying to make him look “normal” or stray away from the stereotype.
Anyway, he persuades Suzie to go with him to his bunker-like hole that he has built in the cornfield; a hole which no one noticed him digging I must add. It’s amazing how one man made that thing though, it really looks like it was a massive undertaking. In this bunker, he starts to get really strange, making small grunts and groans whilst looking at Suzie. The thing that stood out for me in this movie was the sheer creepiness of this man. Which is a good thing and also a bad thing; sure, he has a strange look about him, but then it must be obvious that he is the killer because every one else is simply so normal. Oh, except for that guy who wears adult nappies.
Although we don’t see it, Harvey murders Suzie and puts her body in a sack, then puts the sack in a safe. But that’s not the last we see of Suzie Salmon; we follow her in the quest to reach heaven whilst being stuck in the “In-Between”.
Like I mentioned earlier, the premise has promise of emotion. The execution made it impossible for me to connect with anyone in the film, therefore severely cutting any emotional ties that could have been formed. Jackson does not stay on a scene long enough for us to feel anything for the characters, often inter-cutting real drama with “fancy” CGI scenes of Suzie in her own perfect world.
One scene that sticks out as an example involves Suzie’s dad (Mark Wahlberg almost hitting the over-acting notes that he so perfectly reached in The Happening) smashing small scale boats in bottles over a desk. This could have worked to convey his frustration over not being able to find Suzie’s killer, but instead of letting us feel his pain, we cut to Suzie on a beach with huge CGI boats in bottles, cracking as her father breaks the smaller ones. And they were visibly fake. It was a scene that didn’t tell me that Mr Salmon was distraught from the death of his daughter, but it did make me aware that Peter Jackson can work a graphics program.
Maybe I am being a little harsh. Because there are flashes of brilliance in this film, but they’re rarer than pop songs that don’t talk about love. The scene where Suzie’s sister breaks into Harvey’s house is unbelievably tense: every creak is amplified and you feel the panic rise. Now from a good example of sound design to a completely laughable scene that uses sound in an truly unbelievable way.
Suzie’s dad starts to suspect Harvey. He follows him out into the cornfield with a baseball bat. He hears a noise. It’s a couple of pesky teens. The teen hits her dad.
Cue guitar solo that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Dragonforce song.
This is not the only example of terrible choice of sound; in an opening scene, there is a massive dilemma involving a child and a twig (it’s not what you’re thinking. Take your mind out of the gutter Jenkins!) Suzie turns into a NASCAR driver and the music goes into upbeat frolicking mode. It just makes the scene… fun. And thats NOT what it should be doing.
I have not read the novel (and after seeing this I have no intention to. But let’s face it, I had no intention of reading it before seeing this) but the ending here is ridiculous. I am not going to say more than that, but I will warn you: Don’t park on the edge of a cliff under a tree that has frozen icicles on the branches.
So.. What have we learnt from The Lovely Bones? Well, what ARE the lovely bones would be a good question. Suzie gives us the answer of “the bones that grow around the people I have left, making their relationships stronger”, or something to that effect. I probably stopped listening; her narration sounded like she had just ran a marathon before recording it. But in all fairness, I cannot knock her performance here; she does well with what she had to work with (Jackson’s ego most probably). But I did not get a sense that her passing had caused the relationships to grow stronger; she had not directly affected anything, and things would have taken their course in due time anyway.
But whatever Suzie. You keep thinking that. Now go and play with all the other teenage victims of the same killer who seem to gather in heaven.