Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Depression, rainbow-colored

I pause in my never-ending bibliographing to think of more fun things. I finally saw The Lovely Bones, though perhaps not the way it was meant to be seen, since I was watching it on a five-inch airplane screen. Nevertheless, I can attest to its visual beauty, which was not enough to make up for a somewhat choppy and unbalanced screenplay. It was a best-selling novel about how a family deals with the murder of their twelve-year-old daughter/sister, including her own perspective from heaven. I remember reading an interesting column that speculated that it was one of the 9/11 boom books because it gave a sense that horrible, tragic things could happen, and perhaps no closure could really ever be seen, but it existed nevertheless out there in the cosmos. Interesting. Possible.

This was Peter Jackson's first big project after Lord of the Rings, and it was a good departure for him -- but still bearing the marks of some of the flaws of LOTR, like dialogue that sounds good if you're really into the intense emotion of the moment but just sounds ridiculous later. He doesn't go in much for understatement, but here I think Saoirse Ronan's acting saved him -- she's good at being intense but not hysterical, a quality I hope she will keep as she grows up.

I hate to make judgments like this, but I think that the book, weepy as it was, was better. They cut some of the key scenes, at least for me, and smoothed out the plot a bit too much. Almost the only scene that really stayed with me from the book is the one where Susie's sister wants to hear which body part they found in the field, and the father goes and gets a mixing bowl for her to throw up in before he sits her down to tell her. None of that in the film; Susie's body stays well hidden forever, even if her spirit shows up now and then -- something which also is hard to make subtle in a visual medium, and maybe is best left for the imagination.

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