Over the Bones

By

Published August 6, 2009

Peter Jackson fans are gushing over the few fantastical images on display in the trailer for the Aussie director’s upcoming adaptation of The Lovely Bones. But for devotees of Alice Sebold’s beloved novel about a teenage girl narrating her own murder mystery from beyond the grave, something doesn’t look quite right in Jackson’s vision, which recalls the director’s own 1994 drama Heavenly Creatures. Given the dark, stunning take on girlhood imagination in the former film, one might think Jackson suitable for taking on Bones. But a lot has happened in 15 years, mostly a little film franchise called Lord of the Rings.

Movie adaptations of books are famously disappointing to readers, and The Lovely Bones is unlikely to be one of the rare exceptions. Jackson’s candy-colored vision of the Susie Salmon’s heaven looks too cartoonish, defined more by CGI special effects than a young girl’s dreamscape. The casting also feels off: Mark Wahlberg’s grieving dad with ’70s shaggy hairdo looks all depressed when he should be furious; Stanley Tucci, who plays the young girl’s killer, is a caricature of a pedophile—more Gollum than genuinley creepy.

A trailer doesn’t give the whole story, and the film could turn out to be as powerful and haunting as the novel. But one can’t help but wonder what might have been had Scottish director Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher, Movern Callar), who was originally slated to direct, had not been taken off the project. Her aesthetic–more subtle and dreamy than Jackson’s–seemed like a more promising fit.