With a mixture of drama, a little suspense and mystery, and a dab of humor, The Lovely Bones presents a story that could be interesting and engaging, but it misses on a certain level. Writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens wrote the script based on the book by Alice Sebold. Some of the blame for the finished product might be put on them as they tried to adapt the book to film. Partial blame could also go to director Peter Jackson.
The story is about 14 year old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) who is murdered and then seemingly lives in a sort of purgatory state as she looks down on her family as they deal with her loss. Caught between taking vengeance upon her murderer and allowing her and her family to move on in peace, she looks back on the events that led up to her demise and attempts to make sense of it all.
Her mother, Abigail Salmon (Rachel Weisz) is trying to move on, but her father, Jack (Mark Wahlberg), is having trouble letting go. He frantically pieces together anything that might be able to shed some light as to where she is. He really never gives up the hope that Susie is still alive. During his “investigation,” his oldest daughter, Lindsey (Rose McIver) begins to believe and tries to help her father. Meanwhile, Jack brings Abigail’s mother, Lynn (Susan Sarandon) in to help during their tragedy to help take care of the kids, especially the youngest boy, Buckley (Christian Ashdale).
The other key players are the serial killer George Harvey (Stanley Tucci), Len Fenerman (Michael Imperioli), the detective who investigates the case, Susie’s love interest Ray Singh (Reece Ritchie), and Ruth Connors (Carolyn Dando), a clairvoyant who helps Susie and later becomes involved with Ray.
While I liked the premise and story, it just seemed, at times, the film didn’t know what it was supposed to be – a drama, mystery, or fantasy, or maybe something else. That was a major setback for me. Because really, it had just enough to keep me into the narrative of the film but not enough to thoroughly enjoy it for what it was. The characters intertwine in this story that has promise but just misses the mark. That is to say the performances were adequate for the story, but it appeared the focus was on little Susie as she attempts to make sense of what happened and find her own peace and so that her family would be able to move on. In that, the action moved along well but seemed to abandon a lot of time to deal with the emotions from the family.
During the course of The Lovely Bones, the audience is on a journey with Susie (who also narrates throughout the film) to see how her family is coping and to see if they discover the identity of her murderer. It was one of those films where you would like to see everything wrapped up nice and neat with a happy ending. But even the ending, although there was some satisfaction, didn’t fulfill the needed emotions to be fully satisfied from watching Susie’s journey. It left me with some mixed emotions and I just wasn’t sure what to feel.