“The Lovely Bones”, a 2002 novel by Alice Sebold, was recently brought to the silver screen on from director Peter Jackson. Most known as the man who was able to bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy to life , Jackson missed the mark when it came to bringing Sebold’s best-selling novel to the screen.
Sebold’s novel tells the tale of Susie Salmon, a 14 year-old girl growing up in the 1970’s, when she is brutally raped and murdered by her suburban neighbor George Harvey. Susie’s spirit is sent to the “In-Between”, a beautiful place between Heaven and Earth where she spends her days watching her family as they attempt to move on from her death. Susie also watches Harvey, who carefully covered his tracks and continues to lead the life of an innocent man.
The focus of Sebold’s novel is on the “lovely bones” of the people who come together through tragedy in a ten year expanse of time after Susie’s death. It is about (among other things) her mother’s affair with a detective, the disintegration of her parent’s marriage and her father’s passion to solve Susie’s murder. It’s also about her younger sister Lindsey’s growth into adulthood (including an engagement and pregnancy) and about her younger brother Buckley’s ideas about the afterlife. It’s about Ray Singh, the only boy Susie ever loved, befriending Ruth Conners, Susie’s classmate who struggles with her sexuality and connecting with those who have passed on.
Instead, what Jackson focused on was Susie’s life in the In-Between. Complete with what seems to be several CGI or green screen moments, the film shows several scenes and spends a significant amount of time on Susie running around her In-Between, through forests, fields, and oceans.
Because so much of the focus was on Susie in the In-Between, the movie audience lost the true meaning of the novel- to tell a story about grief and how a horrible tragedy can change a family.
Jackson even omitted (perhaps to maintain a PG-13 rating), Harvey raping Susie. Susie’s rape seems significant to this novel, especially as the author is a rape victim herself. Susie being raped was significant in that it was her first real sexual encounter with a man, and it was done in such a brutal and violent manner. This affects Susie tremendously as she thinks upon her death.
If you’re a fan of Sebold’s novel you may be intrigued to see this film, but you must know that for the most part it lacks the “loveliness” the book contains. It’s like the old saying goes: “Don’t judge a book by it’s movie!”
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