Sunday, January 17, 2010

CC reviews "the Lovely Bones" and saves you eleven bucks.

Spoilers within if you have no idea what this movie is about, but that shouldn't matter because you shouldn't go to this movie*

For the love of God, do not see this movie. I am, uncharacteristically, almost at a loss for metaphor. But I'm going to try. It's like if, oh George Balanchine, working with a heretofore undiscovered piece of music by, oh, say, Mozart and it was one of those ballets where Cezanne painted the sets, and then Balanchine picked for his dancers, oh, say, KISS.

There are many elements of awesomeness, perhaps brilliance in that hot mess, but it wouldn't fucking work.

The Lovely Bones has some really wonderful elements including the hardest working actors in the history of film. Remember how Hitchcock* essentially tortured Tippi Hedren for a week by doing stuff like tying live, angry birds to her and filming it as they pecked her half-revealed flesh through they clothes they had already torn? Probably a better experience than working on "the Lovely Bones."

If there were Oscars for effort, Mark Wahlberg and Saoirse Ronan would deserve them. And Susan Sarandon chews the scenery like you wouldn't believe in a role where that's clearly what she's expected to do in a Falstaff sort of way. Ronan's role is mostly about wandering around looking amazed, with the occasional scream of anguish, but the few moments when she's allowed to have a personality, she evokes that personality very well. Wahlberg's character is kind of a loon, but you understand why he is the way he is and Wahlberg gives good loon.

The cinematography keeps you watching long after you wish you could stop. It cuts back and forth between different threads of story so much it is impossible to lose yourself in the movie even though you're not sure you want to. You never get the chance to get caught up in the thing, so if you're me you sit there and analyze it. And this movie does not stand up well to analysis.

The directing is so bad that you know exactly what you're watching every second and what the directer is trying to hamfistedly make you feel. You know thirty seconds into the movie that the girl is going to get killed and the tension is built up so slowly and clumsily that by twenty minutes into the movie, your brain is BEGGING the movie to fucking kill her already and destroy this perfectly sweet family because the buildup to that killing and destruction is unbearably plodding and meticulous. I had not been previously aware that I could be that anxious and that bored at the same time.

The last Peter Jackson movie I saw, King Kong, made it clear that Jackson has no clue what to do with tension, a problem I don't recall him having in "The Lord of the Rings" or "Heavenly Creatures." In King Kong, Ann is in constant danger for like 45 minutes of movie while Kong fights off dinosaurs. One assumes that it is inconceivable to Jackson that 45 minutes of Kong wailing on dinosaurs might be a tad excessive. He has the same self-restraint problems here in that there are several situations that should be tense and exciting but go on so damn long that it just gets irritating.

Jackson's CGI-rendered and brightly-colored vision of heaven is, erm, not mine and includes a Magical Asian because, one assumes, Morgan Freeman had other commitments.

Anyway, y'all get the idea.


*To make it absolutely clear, I am NOT advocating a boycott of this movie or ordering you not to see it in any way that you should treat as a command. I am expressing my extreme distaste, not a political agenda. Also, I ain't your Momma and I don't expect you to listen to me just because I say so.

**After finding out that Hedren would not, in fact, fuck him, at least according to Hedren herself as told to Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto.


PG said...

Have you read the book? I thought it was fairly well-written but I didn't think it would translate well to film. In fairness to Jackson, his "CGI-rendered and brightly-colored vision of heaven" sounds like it was true to the book (in which people have their own versions of heaven -- or rather a kind of pre-heaven they inhabit when they are still emotionally tied to earth -- and it makes sense that an adolescent girl's might look like that), which in the book also had a Vietnamese heaven-roommate for the narrator. And in the book the narrator's love interest is Indian.

However, if Jackson took 20 minutes to kill her, he screwed up that part of the book, because in the book she's raped and dead around page 15.

Stephanie said...

Oh, I was going to ask if you read the book too, because of what PG said about the beginning---it's not tension-filled, at least not 20minutes worth. The set-up is that she's dead, not that she's going to be killed.....

Not a big fan of the book though.

Chalicechick said...

The Indian boyfriend is there, though the scence where she reconnects with him is so cheesily done that there was laughter in the theatre where I saw it. That said, he's a cutie and the actor did fine.

I felt that at least in the movie, the Asian "heaven roommate" came off as a sort of "Magical Negro" in that she is the tuned-in and wise minority sidekick girl who keeps trying to set the clueless white heronie straight.

YMMV and she's probably better drawn in the book.

Stephanie said...

It sounds like you and Ebert are on the same page:

Chalicechick said...

I disagree with Ebert on some aspects of the review--I don't think the murder victim is ever portrayed as having a very good time in "pre-heaven" so I don't agree with his opening sentiment and don't think he describes the character's experience accurately.

That said, he and I certainly agree that the acting is good and it is the adaptation/directing that is the problem.

PG said...

Ah, sounds like Jackson merged Franny and Holly (Vietnamese girl) together, so he put the wisdom/guidance of Franny (who is supposed to be a 40-something woman who had been a social worker on earth, and in heaven a mother-figure to both Holly and the narrator) into the mouth of a young girl. I can see how that would come off as a bit Magical Asian-ish, but I don't think that was what Jackson was necessarily thinking.

Chalicechick said...

Yeah, I don't know that I would like this book but most of my beefs are with the directing.


hsofia said...

Doesn't sound like something I want to see. I tend to avoid these kinds of stories. I liked Heavenly Creatures when it came out years ago ... but I wonder about Jackson's ability to convey emotion in a way that's not underdeveloped and slightly embarrassing.

LinguistFriend said...

The movie seems to evoke very different assessments. I'm not sure that it will turn up where I live, but there is a review by the screenwriter John Petrakis in the most recent issue of Christian Century (1/26/10), with a significantly different point of view.

Chalicechick said...

Can't comment on what Christian Century has to say since they don't put most of their content online. I did go looking for that review.

That said, the aggregators of movie reviews show somewhat mixed, but overall negative reviews.