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The Lovely Bones

(No longer in theaters)
  • Rating: PG-13 — for mature thematic material involving disturbing violent content and images, and some language
  • Director: Peter Jackson   Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Saoirse Ronan
  • Running Time: 135 minutes
  • Reader Rating: Write a Review


Drama, Horror, Suspense/Thriller


Carolynne Cunningham


Paramount Pictures

Release Date

Jan 15, 2010

Release Notes


Official Website


Given that Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones opens with the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl, maybe it’s a blessing that Peter Jackson’s film is too ham-handed to get under your skin. But sitting through it is still an ordeal. As in the book, the narrator is the dead girl, Susie Salmon, played by Saoirse Ronan with pale, iridescent eyes. Susie recounts the story of her murder—if she’s raped here, it isn’t mentioned—by a serial killer, Mr. Harvey (Stanley Tucci), who happens to live in her neighborhood. Semi-transparent, she watches her parents (Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz) react to her disappearance and the discovery of blood—no body—in a pit. She eavesdrops on the boy she had a crush on, her younger sister, and even her killer. Halfway between worlds, she moves in a limbo, sometimes romping with another dead girl through a surreal, computer-generated never-never land.

It’s no mystery how Sebold arrived at her premise. In a memoir, Lucky, she revealed that she was raped in college, and that the police said she was “lucky” because the last woman raped there was killed. The Lovely Bones is a fantasy of the death she didn’t have, its limbo likely a metaphor for her post-rape detachment from her body, its fantasy landscape connected to the otherworldly lightness induced by a turn (for a brief spell) to heroin. For The Lovely Bones to work onscreen, it would need a filmmaker who could blur the line between literal and metaphorical—like Lynne Ramsay, who made the semi-abstract Morvern Callar and was briefly attached to write and direct The Lovely Bones before it was even published. Jackson’s demarcations between life and limbo are the opposite of fluid. The fantasy sections are like an illustrated New Age storybook for 6-year-olds, with Saoirse and her blue peepers used for mystical sentimentality.

Never particularly original, Jackson can only replicate the language of other movies: a bit of Hitchcock here, a little Spielberg there, and none of the borrowings apt. The actors are all over the place. Tucci, with his caterpillar mustache and finicky comb-over, is so floridly creepy he might as well have child molester tattooed on his forehead. You can snicker at how over-the-top everything is, but it feels weird to be laughing at a film filled with ghastly images of dead girls. With material this disturbing comes a special responsibility. Jackson’s ineptitude isn’t just disastrous—it’s sinful.

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