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The Lovely Bones is Wondrous

Published December 10, 2009 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of DreamWorks
The Lovely Bones Poster The Lovely Bones
Everyone’s bashing The Lovely Bones. That pretty much insures that I’ll love it. Whatever the reason, whether it’s just Peter Jackson’s turn to take a critical beating or people really don’t like the material, I’m the guy who always sees the good in it.

Review: The Lovely Bones

It’s not tear jerking. It’s just matter of fact and wondrous at the same time. The build up, the reveal that this is the perspective after her murder, it all suggests a beauty to tragedy and a mysticism to everyday events.

You learn about the characters through activities. Dad’s personality is evident with his obsessive hobby. Grandma is just plain fabulous. It’s obvious, but that’s storytelling. Show us who they are. Even the stuff that’s familiar, the inept housewife schtick, is effective through Jackson’s eye.

The film balances the real and the supernatural perfectly. It never feels overbearing or lacking on either side. You get a montage of Susie frolicking through purgatory and then spend time with her dad obsessively searching for the killer. It never feels like you’re missing some heaven or dwelling too much in the effects. It’s like a real family where the whole unit of the story is important. No one character takes over, not even the leading Hollywood stars.

The level of effects is reality. This afterlife could exist. It’s just images are juxtaposed so unusually we know they’re not. Once scene shifts from winter to spring to a beach cliff. No one element is unreal, but all three instantly is supernatural. There’s one really bad effect at the end, but only one. Hey, we forgive whole movies with blurry characters bouncing around, so Peter Jackson can slack off on one.

I think it’s that I have a healthy perspective on death. I can see a movie about death and grieving and the healthy process it can be. Everybody’s going to have to go through it. If a movie about it is distasteful to you, I can’t imagine how you’d cope with the real thing. This movie is tasteful and artful, so I can certainly appreciate the power of surviving a tragic loss, and the metaphysical possibility of a corresponding process on the other side.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of DreamWorks

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