Book V. Movie: “The Lovely Bones”
Alice Sebold’s 2002 novel, “The Lovely Bones” was a smash upon it’s release. Despite it’s subject matter – a young girl who’s been raped and murdered watches from a limbo between earth and heaven as her family copes with her loss, and her murderer (a neighbor) walks among them unknown – the book was popular with book clubs, and director Peter Jackson personally purchased the rights to bring it to the big screen.
Which, it turns out, may not have been the best idea.
After viewing “The Lovely Bones” on film, I find myself in agreement with the mixed to negative reviews it received upon it’s opening. Despite a killer cast, including Susan Sarandon, Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, and Saoirse Ronan (of “Atonement” fame), too often the movie veers wildly between scenes of violence and scenes of a teenage girl’s (obviously computer generated) fluffy heaven, where fashion is key, and you can play all day. Riding in a sled pulled by a pug? Sure! Dancing in rhinestone platforms on a giant record player? Why not!
The film was released in 2009, and not adored. Basically, critics thought it was messy, but looked expensive, and that the cast was the saving grace.
Fans of the book noticed quite a few differences between the source material and the film adaptation. Mainly, that in the book, Susie’s heaven isn’t 60% of the focus. It’s just a place she is, not a day-glo dance factory with glass-bottled ships crashing onto rocks. Pretty, yes. Relevant? Not really. The book is also blunt about the fact that Susie is raped AND murdered. In the film version, if she’s raped before Mr. Harvey kills her, it’s never brought up. Also, in the book Susie’s dad has an encounter with some teenagers and a baseball bat in a cornfield – then has a heart attack toward the end, which makes her mother return. The movie skips the heart attack altogether and has the baseball bat incident become the life or death moment for Susie’s Dad. In addition, Susie’s sister Lindsey is a much bigger character, and the character of Ray’s mother has been completely left out of the movie. (Or rather, I’m sorry – She walks by in a scene at the mall one time.) Also, Susie’s mother has an affair with the policeman working on Susie’s case, and Mr. Harvey leaves town earlier and then comes back.
I get that putting a loved book onscreen is never easy, and choices have to be made.
However, in this case, maybe sticking closer to the source material would have helped.
All I’m saying.
(The acting is really good, though. Rachel Weisz made me cry in a four-second scene toward the end. For real.)