The first quarter of 2010 on Blu-Ray saw the arrival of several visually-remarkable movies. Leading the way was James Cameron’s Hollywood-changing 3-D epic, “Avatar.” That film was a representation of everything to extremes. The military had weapons no one’s ever dreamed of yet. The battles took place on the land and in the air. It was just a massive scale movie, dealing with tribes of thousands against the military wing of a massive corporation.
“The Lovely Bones” is just as driven by a fantasy world, but where “Avatar” is huge, this film is much more intimate. Adapted from Alice Sebold’s novel of the same name, “The Lovely Bones” is the story of Susie Salmon, who is murdered by her neighbor. Though she is dead, Susie is far from gone. She remains in a space no longer Earth, but her emotions won’t allow her to let go and proceed to Heaven.
Susie’s parents, Jack (Wahlberg) and Abigail (“Constantine’s” Rachel Weisz) are dedicated parents to their three children; Susie, Lindsey and Buckley. However, the film is set in the early 1970’s and, as Susie points out, no one at that time believed something bad would ever happen to their kids. Once Susie goes missing, Jack immediately starts asking neighbors if they’ve seen her, while Abigail works with Detective Fenerman (Michael Imperioli). Fenerman works the case as a classic on-screen cop; he asks the neighbors, he looks for evidence and he gets frustrated as Jack tries to do his own investigation.
Meanwhile, Susie is exploring this strange, ever changing, new world. Seasons change in the blink of an eye. Leaves come alive and transform into a flock of birds. An imposing lighthouse looms in the distance. She realizes that, in some peripheral way, she can still signal her family, and she makes attempt after attempt to help guide them to her murderer.
Descriptions really fall short in doing “The Lovely Bones” justice. The visuals are imagination come to life. One scene involving ships-in-a-bottle is particularly breath-taking. Enough can’t be said about director Peter Jackson’s creation of Susie’s world.
“The Lovely Bones” is a touching story of family dedication, and the courage of one young girl to hold on, when letting go would be not only easy, but rewarding. The cast performs well across the board, from Wahlberg’s desperate Jack to Susan Sarandon’s scene stealing role as chain-smoking boozer, Grandma Lynn. Ronan’s Susie is the perfect 14-year old girl, trying to understand her place in the family, deal with siblings and schoolmates, and make sense out of the feelings she has for Ray, a dark-haired English classmate. After she is killed, Ronan keeps Susie tuned to her values, even as her entire reality is changing.
The standout performance is that of Stanley Tucci (“The Devil Wears Prada, “Lucky Number Slevin”). Tucci’s villain is socially awkward, and his obsession with Susie is a slow burn, building until he must act on his desires. Jackson swings Tucci between ominous silhouette and slightly creepy but maybe alright guy next door. He makes viewers want revenge for Susie. (Tucci underwent skin lightening and wore fake teeth, a wig and moustache to transform himself into his character.)
The second disc features a unique approach to a making-of featurette. Jackson and crew filmed the filming of the movie, coupled it with interviews and commentary, and created three hours of extra footage. The shooting is broken down week by week and between locations, granting excellent insight into shooting out of sequence, lighting techniques, and omitted footage and sub-plots.
“The Lovely Bones” is a heart-touching story of innocence and courage, painted onto a beautiful canvas. Jackson and his crew make the most of digital technology to create and bridge the past and the in-between.
The film is rated PG-13 and runs 130 minutes. The film’s official site, www.lovelybones.com, contains information on the Blu-Ray release, the DVD, the movie and the book.