Ken reviews: The Lovely Bones

By Ken KwekMovies - 19 March 2010 5:08 PM | Updated 22 March 2010

Ken reviews: The Lovely Bones

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Rating: 2 out of 5

You know those New Age landscape portraits you sometimes see on postcards? With the purple sky, swollen moon and maybe a pair of luminous dolphins frolicking below in a glimmering lake?

Peter Jackson’s new movie, The Lovely Bones, is filled with those glossy, kitschy images, which were created by a team of more than two hundred visual effects artists, for an equally bloated US$65 million budget.

The man who directed the phenomenal Lord of the Rings Trilogy appears to be incapable of making a small movie.

And The Lovely Bones, based on a 2002 best-selling novel by Alice Sebold, is a small movie; about the banality of evil lurking in small towns; about the intricate wounds that such evil inflicts.

In the film, as in the book, the ghost of fourteen-year-old Susie (Saoirse Ronan, lovely) narrates her own murder at the hands of a neighbourhood creep (Stanley Tucci), in 1973.

Susie watches her villain covering his tracks; she watches her parents (Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz) and sister (Rose McIver) struggling to cope with her death.

And, like all ghosts with unfinished business, she won’t leave her survivors alone; she won’t “move on” until she has shown her family the truth, and brought her killer to justice.

But unlike most ghosts, Susie’s way of showing the truth is to pop up in these strange, moving, giant New Age postcards, and whispering to people, “No…don’t forget me,” in a voice at once panicky and soothing.

Mr Jackson’s deployment of these images - heightened fantasies of giant bottles crashing against glimmering rocks; of pretty lighthouses crumbling in the shimmering night - is naïve and unrestrained.

You can imagine the director, overcome with child-like wonder at the surreal grandeur of the postcard scenes, then commissioning the most cloying of scores to go with them.

It simply doesn’t work.

The cinematic bombast crushes the heart of Susie’s story; and Sebold’s novel about the small, shifting compulsions of grief, writ large on the silver screen, becomes a product of mawkish absurdity.


Ken Kwek is a playwright and screenwriter. His film credits include The Ballad of Vicki and Jake (2005), The Blue Mansion (2009) and Kidnapper (2010). Kidnapper is now showing in Singapore theatres and will be released in Malaysia on May 13.