In adapting such a complex, cherished book as The Lovely Bones, its not surprising that Peter Jackson would get one thing wrong. But its a big thing.
Alice Sebolds 2002 novel is told from the perspective of a 14-year-old girl who has been murdered and is watching from heaven as her family self-destructs, then rebuilds from the tragedy. Jackson, who had such success mixing human darkness and fantasy in his early film Heavenly Creatures, here goes into full, CGIhappy Lord of the Rings mode: Susie (Saoirse Ronan) inhabits a psychedelic afterlife of rolling Teletubbies fields, Middle Earth mountains, and Moody Bluesalbum sunrise skies. What Jackson forgets in these wildly distracting sequences is that Sebolds novel, even though it draws on the supernatural, is very much rooted on Earth.
When the movie returns to that Earth, it is often moving. Jackson does a perfectly detailed job of evoking the late 70sfrom the split-level houses and woody station wagons to the David Cassidy posters, photo cubes, and Archie comics that litter Susies room. This is important: this is a story about the loss of innocence, and the era was a time when no one believed that bad things would happen to them.
The characterizations are also mostly strong, too, centred around Ronans ice-blue-eyed teen, a nonsaccharine mix of sweetness and naivet. Stanley Tuccis psychopath is truly sinister in his unassuming comb over and windbreaker, and Susan Sarandons steely granny is a treat too: a woman who can juggle a vacuum, drink, and smoke at the same time. But we need more from Rachel Weiszs catatonic, absentee mother, and Mark Wahlberg is one-dimensionally bug-eyed in his rage.
Still, my biggest fear about the film adaptation, that Susies rape and murder might somehow become explicit, is never realized: Jackson, like Sebold, handles it in deft impressions. If only he could have shown such restraint with his hobbit-tinged heavens.