“I am in awe.”
I heard these words as I was filing out of the theater last night after seeing “The Lovely Bones,” and I thought that simple phrase kinda said it all.
I read Alice Sebold’s disturbing novel soon after its release in 2002 on a friend’s recommendation. Although the subject matter is a bit gruesome — a teenage girl brutally raped and murdered by a neighbor — seeing death and its effect on the survivors through the eyes of the victim was somehow life-affirming.
Now, anytime you love a book, the film will usually disappoint, and the critics have leapt upon Peter Jackson’s interpretation with claws unfurled. “The Lovely Bones” movies had been declared only 40% fresh on rottentomatoes.com. Critics have chastised Jackson for both overdoing the visual effects of the “inbetween” — where victim Susie Salmon watches her family struggle with her murder before going on to the afterlive — to underdoing her rape and murder, which he alludes to onscreen but never shows graphically.
Personally, I was relieved Jackson didn’t show us a blow-by-blow account of her death; the more subtle ways he pointed to it were infinitely more chilling. And, if you think about it, would Susie have taken those memories with her into the next life? Wouldn’t she choose to leave the most horrendous details of her murder behind?
I certainly hope so.
“The Lovely Bones” movie honors the book by honoring the vision of Susie Salmon. Jackson told the movie through her eyes, as the book told the story in her words. It is a moving interpretation, made real by the amazing performances of Stanley Tucci and Saoirse Ronan.
Ignore the critics and see it. Then, go home and hug your family.