Monday, January 25, 2010
These are the lovely bones...
In my experience, it's exceedingly rare for a film to go beyond it's individual parts and become an emotional experience. The visuals, the story, the actors all gel in such a way that the film takes you beyond the necessary suspension of disbelief and into a new emotional reality. That is what I felt watching "The Lovely Bones", and it was fantastic!
The key to the film is Saoirse Ronan. The film would not have been anywhere near as compelling, if it wasn't for Ronan's performance. In her narration of events, she hits the perfect blend of fear, awe, sadness, and hope, adding such subtle nuances to her character that make her feel like your own child. Watching her onscreen, she takes that blend of emotion and overlays it with a youthful innocence and exuberance that serves only to bind you to her even more.
This makes watching her murder all the more painful, and lends a weight to the performances of Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz, playing her parents, Jack & Abigail Salmon. Wahlberg & Weisz put in solid performances, but Ronan's performance adds a visceral component, so you feel the Salmon family's frustration at not finding her, and then their anguish at learning of her death, as if you were part of their family. The parallel journeys of emotion that Susie and her family take during the course of the film become your own. You heal as the family does, and you accept the death as Susie does.
In the end, that the point of the film. It isn't about what happens during the film, the events are simple in nature. It isn't about the what you're seeing, despite the film's visuals being utterly fantastic and another mark of Peter Jackson's amazing talent. The true focus of the film is how the events of life, both cruel and benign, affect you and those around you.
Very few movies deal with this subject matter, a soul accepting it's death and the survivor's journey of healing after that death. The ones that immediately come to mind are What Dreams May Come, with a tour de force performance by Robin Williams, and The Five People You Meet In Heaven. I'm now adding The Lovely Bones to this category. Like the others in this category, The Lovely Bones is a very powerful film and I do recommend it. But it's not a film to be taken lightly, and not something you watch just to pass the time.
On a final note, I have to give Stanley Tucci an enthusiastic thumbs up. Every movie I see him in, from Conspiracy to Shall We Dance?, from The Terminal to Julie & Julia*, he always delivers solid, believable perfomances. In this film, Tucci displays a new level of mastery in his craft. Very few people can convey as much just sitting still. His scenes sitting in front of the safe, were chilling to watch. Great job, Mr. Tucci!
* Yes, I watched Julie & Julia. No, I wasn't forced to. And, no I didn't like it. That's a rental movie.