October 15, 2010
Peter Jackson undertakes another literary adaptation, this time morphing Alice Sebold's 2002 novel "The Lovely Bones" into a visual symphony of heaven, and hell on earth.
The film's protagonist is Susie Salmon: a 14 year old who has been murdered, and now speaks to the viewer from beyond the grave. The film details her brief life, her blossoming personality, and her family's struggle to cope with her death. As Susie watches over them from a place called "her heaven", concepts of the afterlife are explored, and themes of violence, retribution, loss, and love are touched upon.
I watched this film on plane, hours after I got the news that my grandfather had died. There was a certain poetry to the timing, so I decided to read the book, and did this during the week of his funeral. But even in my weakened emotional state I wasn't convinced by these mediocre works dressed in epic clothing.
I found both works somewhat hyperbolic. They dealt with hard-hitting themes, and interesting philosphical and spiritual concepts, but somehow fell short of offering an original perspective on life.
Jackson doesn't bring much to the translation. His obvious excitement at creating a CG heaven leads to some very cheesy musical montages that don't really support the story. I enjoyed the acting of Saoirse Ronan, and Stanley Tucci, but Susan Saradon was an embarrassment as a carbon-copy eccentric, alcoholic grandmother. Of course I did have moments of empathy, but it's hard not to when you see people dying (emotionally, physically) on screen. By the time I was two thirds of the way through the book I just wanted it to be over. Not because it was depressing - but because I didn't care.
Actually, this was one rare moment in literature to film translation where I felt the book and the film were equal. Equally average.