The Lovely  Bones


You've gotta give Peter Jackson his dues ­- well, he's deservedly got quite a few of those this last decade - the man continues to tackle projects that most won't go near.

It's one of his most endearing qualities as a director. Upon seeing Meet the Feebles in the mid-90s, I confidently proclaimed to all in earshot that this man would someday make it big. For once I was right. After turning one of the most 'unfilmable' book series into a classic trilogy, and taking on the not so small task of remaking a cinematic grail of a film (King Kong), Jackson turned his eyes toward an unexpected bestseller by the bold and unapologetic Alice Sebold.

Imagine pitching this as a potential project to a studio system that is becoming ever-fearful of veering anywhere off the sequel, remake, or marketed for every demographic that is our contemporary cinematic reality: A 14 year-old girl is lured, murdered, and dismembered by a neighbour. From a world somewhere between ours and heaven, she tries to come to grips with what's happened to her, and how it affects the loved ones she's left behind.

Forget about it, right? The project actually was optioned before Jackson got to it, and predictably didn't get too far toward production in several years. But now that Jackson has conquered the film world, he is one of the very few who can pretty much make whatever he wants. So is this newest adaptation of his another feather in his impressive cap?

Sebold, more than any other author this reviewer has read in living memory, never pulls a punch. Her novel is a bestseller for a reason. The story of Susie Salmon is one of the most gut-wrenching and yet uplifting tales I have ever read. She gives you details of this girl's experience that, whether a parent or not, will make you weep for her, and by the last page be okay with the knowledge that murder or no we all end, and we all must learn to let go.

Jackson's adaptation has been accused by some of veering too far away from the story, but that is simply not the case. All adaptations from book to film involve excising that, for those who love the source material, makes it appear to be missing something. While this reviewer did not find the film version of the story as willing to go to Sebold's shadow sides of the tale, it has to be said Jackson has stayed true to the story. Not in that waffling producer sense of 'maintaining the essence, bla, bla, bla' (hate it when they say that, and they all say that); I am talking main plot point to main plot point - the film doesn't veer from the core story in the book. What happens there happens here.

What is excised does make the film differ from the book somewhat, and not for the better. While I completely agree with Jackson's decision not to capture Sebold's cringe-inducing detail of Susie's murder, certain subplots, such as the Mother's affair with the cop, and the aftermath of her murder for Ray, the boy she loved, reduce their effect on you from real people to supporting characters servicing the story's message only. I would have gladly sat through another twenty minutes to allow them more depth.

Another thing that doesn't translate well in this cinematic version is Jackson's depiction of the in between world Susie inhabits, post her demise. The effects are stunningly beautiful, but Jackson veers a little too far into the abstract at times and overwhelms that visceral audience connection with Susie. Had he simplified or condensed his visual metaphors, that connection with her would have remained strong and the emotions for her all the richer for it.

The cast is a stunning collection of fine actors, but the film belongs to two people. Saoirse (pronounced seer-sha) Ronan and Stanley Tucci, as Susie and Mr. Harvey, her killer, respectably, capture these two characters beautifully. You love Susie the first moment you see her, and despise and revile Harvey the moment you see his face on that cornfield.

The pacing is almost note perfect - but for the above mentioned absences - you get some time with Susie before the event. The thriller aspects of the story are suitably tension-filled and fulfilling. The music, by Brian Eno no less, may be almost the perfect element of the film that captures the book's shifting moods wholeheartedly.

Jackson's cap is a feather fuller. The Lovely Bones as a film does not hold the punch of its source novel, but is affecting just the same. The film should be viewed on its own narrative, and Susie's story in this medium does not disappoint. No adaptation can ever live up to its source, but perhaps we can learn from Susie herself, and embrace what is and let go of the rest.

4 Stars

Component Grades
4 stars
4 stars
DVD Experience
4 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Language and Sound: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

With Peter Jackson being a huge fan/collector of home media releases in general, it comes as no surprise most of his films get the full-treatment (Lord of the Rings theatrical Blu Ray double-dipping SOBs, I’m pointing a finger at YOU) and The Lovely Bones is no different.

What you get is an almost reference quality picture, that most of the time is jaw-droppingly crisp and only suffers from a seldom soft shot here or there. Blacks are solid and detailed, colours vibrant, the whole 70s era is captured so perfectly, you almost can step into it. The sound is immersive and serves to surround you in Susie Salmon’s world effectively.

As for special features, Jackson decided to go in an experimental direction that you’ll either love or loathe. Wanting to distance himself from the usual documentary style interviews and making ofs, Jackson instead offers an exhaustive three hours of raw footage from the shoot, with voice overs offering little anecdotes throughout. It’s a fresh approach, unquestionably, but it only covers one aspect of the film effectively—the shoot. There is really nothing much from the actors, or more importantly, author Alice Sebold. This is not an uninteresting offering, but at three hours it does become monotonous fast (and this is from someone who is obsessed by the filmmaking process). Steven Spielberg once said that watching other directors work is boring; after sitting through this, I would have to agree.



    • Introduction By Peter Jackson (1080i, 1:09)
    • Filming 'The Lovely Bones' (1080i, 2:57:18, and with optional English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles)
    • USA Principal Photography (1:27:50)
    • New Zealand Principal Photography (59:43)
    • Visual Effects Photography (29:45)

      Number of Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (2 BDs)