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DVD Review: "The Lovely Bones" is a less edgy version of the novel

"The Lovely Bones" movie poster
"The Lovely Bones" movie poster
Dreamworks Studios

The movie cannot help but be compared to the novel. Maybe that’s a slight affront to the film but it is the perspective I am writing from. I love The Lovely Bones. It was like nothing I had ever read before. The novel was dark and unrelenting, edgy yet not-over the top. It was my first taste of Alice Sebold’s work and she has quickly become one of my favorite authors. She doesn’t hold back but that same honest emotion did not translate particularly well to the movie.

I’ve gotten in trouble for this before and I don’t want to make the same mistake again so here goes-major spoiler alert below. Seriously, go to another movie critic’s page now if you don’t want to read a full on critique with references to the movie and the book. Now, I can’t say I didn’t warn you.

The basic storyline is the novel and the book is about the same. Susie Salmon is a 14 year old girl who is murdered by one of her neighbors, Mr. Harvey. Susie then goes onto a heaven-like place and watches over her family as they try to move on. She watches as her father tries to find her killer, her mother isolates herself within herself, and her sister fall in love. Then Susie herself works to find peace within herself, or at least some sort of acceptance, of how unfair life was to her.

The acting was pretty good. Mark Wahlberg as Susie’s father Jack was alright, nothing too must-see about it It is always nice to see him in a change of pace in regards to the roles he takes and not be playing, oh let’s say, Max Payne in a sequel. Stanley Tucci as Mr. Harvey was amazingly believable. His creepiness even made goose bumps come up on my arms. Rachel Weisz as Abby, Susie’s mother, is classy as always. And then of course, something has to be said about Saoirse Ronan as Susie. This young Irish actress blew people away in Atonement and delivered again here.

While the characters were all the same, so much was missing from the movie that was so vital in the book. In the book, Mr. Harvey actually rapes Susie and then murders her, important because when Susie falls to earth into Ruth, she and Ray make love. It was her act of taking back something that Mr. Harvey had taken from her, an act of defiance and something that helped her get closure. The affair in the novel that her mother Abby has with Detective Len Fenerman shows how far she went to maintain a connection with the outside world but it too was missing in the movie.

Visually, it was stunning. The cinematography that brought to life this astounding book was gorgeous. If all that can be said negative wise is that it’s a toned down PG-13 rated version of an R rated book, then I suppose that’s nothing too negative. But the sense of great promise was completely diminished after viewing the film. It lacked that punch that the book held, the almost grittiness to it, but that has its benefits as well.

The bottom line to any movie review is trying to answer the question, “Is it worth my time and money to watch?” Although it is watered down, I would have to say yes. It remains, as always, a unique story with a very neat perspective.
 

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