On my way out of the theater I heard an amazing comment. It blew my mind and made my night. The comment was something I did not suspect I would hear and if I had been drinking at the time it would surely have resulted in a classic spit-take. I heard a woman say, "I didn't know the girl died."
Wow. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I have a strong suspicion that this person did not know what movie she was going to see, nor had she seen a trailer which includes the ominous line "when I was murdered." That's right, murdered. In any case, this exiting moment was almost more entertaining than this dullard of a film.
I have heard that the film diverges in some significant ways from Alice Sebold's novel. For that, I am glad not to have read the book; sometimes it is best not to have that baggage. Now that I have seen the movie and recognize the story potential it has, I am curious to see how it is dealt with in the novel.
The trailers, with the catchy operatic style music, impressive visuals, and intriguing premise (not to mention Peter Jackson at the helm) won me over. I was quite excited to see how this would work. The Lovely Bones appeared to promise a murder mystery, wonderful fantasy imagery, and a large reservoir of heart. In some areas it paid off but in others failed to find a foothold at all.
The Lovely Bones tells the story of Susie Salmon (like the fish, we are told a number of times) who is murdered in December of 1973 as a fourteen-year old girl. This is not a spoiler, as it happens pretty early on in the film, is told even earlier, and is said in the trailer. Her murder sets off a chain of events that threatens to rip the Salmon family apart while the killer works on covering his tracks. Through all of this, Susie is in some sort of flower-power version of heaven, or at least the passage to heaven, where she watches those on Earth mourn, grieve, and attempt to investigate the murder themselves.
There are a lot of things to like in the movie, but unfortunately they are just bits and pieces. In the case of The Lovely Bones the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts. Actually, it is much, much less. Fortunately some of those parts are quite good, making the film bearable.