Saturday, January 16, 2010

Why The Hell Is The Lovely Bones Pissing Off Everybody So Badly?


Spoilers

Lets get this out of the way. A lot of people are getting very pissed off at The Lovely Bones. Even Roger Ebert, who has been pretty mellow since his surgery cracked his knuckles and wrote what’s less of a review then a napalming of the movie. I mean read that thing. God Damn (Although I do find it comforting, that Ebert can still right an absolute scorcher when he puts his mind to it).

He’s not alone either its virtually impossible to find a good review, Peter Travers, Richard Corliss, and Drew McWeeney are all positive but that’s about it. The movie’s a Thirty Six on Rotten Tomatoes, forty two on Meta Critic. These are the type of scores you see for the new Renny Harlin movie, not the work of a major director.

So just what is it about The Lovely Bones that pissed everyone off so much? And just so I’m being clear here, I feel as though there IS a lot wrong with that movie. There are two or three sequences so ridiculous that its impossible to watch them and still feel connected to the film. Just jarringly wrong notes. One involving Mark Wahlberg, a cornfield, and a baseball bat, suddenly turned Marky Mark’s meek accountant character into his Dingham from The Departed, I was shocked Shipping Out To The Boston wasn’t playing (In all fairness Wahlberg otherwise acquits himself quite well, for once using his natural awkwardness and inarticulacy for the character rather then against him). Tucci’s bizarre horror movie style death is so jarringly awkward that it took me a minute to realize that it was actually happening and wasn’t just a joke. The film’s concurrent climax is another harsh misstep, mainly because of how utterly nonplussed everyone seems to be. I mean if you suddenly found yourself having sex with the fourteen year old ghost of your first crush (Remember this is YEARS after the fact) wouldn’t you be a bit weirded out?

And yet, there are moments and images in The Lovely Bones that stubbornly work. And I found it to be on the whole quite moving. It plays almost like the Anti Zodiac. While Zodiac showed how tragedy and evil weave themselves in the course of time, doing incalculable damage as they go along. The Lovely Bones shows how in the face of eternity tragedy, and evil are ultimately rendered insignificant.

And that’s the idea that seems to have gotten out Ebert’s and other’s whacking sticks. Now look let’s say you don’t believe in heaven and all this God bullshit. That’s a reasonable place to stand. But you can’t accept it on say purely story based terms? Or even metaphorical ones? I don’t believe there’s a town south of the border named El Ray where the buildings are made of human shit, but I’m willing to roll with what Jim Thompson was going for. Besides the heaven of The Lovely Bones is so stringently non denominational that getting pissed on religious grounds seems faintly ridiculous.

Another thing that seems to have pissed off people, is the film’s handling of the rape murder at the center of the film. I admit I haven’t read Sebold’s novel (though I’m curious to) so I don’t know how graphic its handled there but the film, implies much and shows little. And as such its probably the first movie I’ve ever come across that is getting bashed for not showing the graphic rape and murder of a fourteen year old child.

But to suggest that the film somehow doesn’t confront the sickening weight of the crime is ludicrous. The scene where Susie watches the clean up of her killing, as her killer (Stanley Tucci, Great) meticulously wipes away any trace that she ever existed, is one of the most gut wrenching scenes I watched in a movie this year.

Even the imagery has been taking a licking, with Jackson’s, surely one of the most confident stylists working today, vision of the “in between” being blasted as derivative of his work in Heavenly Creatures at best, and looking like the world’s most expensive Loreal commercial at worst.

But well yeah, of course it does. Of course its an immature looking world. Susie is Immature. Death as a consequence tends to halt maturity pretty much dead in its tracks. The resulting imagery is still primal and communicative.

So in short is the Lovely Bones a big clumsy, awkward, earnest movie that makes some bad choices. Yes. Do you have to like it? Of course not. But pretending it’s not a work worthy of consideration is foolish. Every director has a film where they just have to take their lumps. And unfortunately for Jackson, this seems like his turn.

9 comments:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I actually liked The Lovely Bones, though I did I will admit it had its faults but you're spot on when you refer to the overly harsh critical lashing its been taking. Lovely writeup. I'm with you on the profundity of seeing Saoirse watch her own rape.

Evil Dead Junkie said...

Thanks for the kind words.

Anonymous said...

A poorly written article by someone in that small minority who can't differentiate between good cinematic fiction and an indulgent, dishonest, masturbatory attack on reality. You just don't get it, but maybe I envy your apparent ability to swallow dishonest nonsense. Reality isn't always a nice place after all.

Bryce Wilson said...

My mother ladies and gentleman. Thank you very much.

I'll say the same thing to you that I say to every other asshole who doesn't have the balls to sign there name.

Get an identity, or at least present some kind of argument. Then I might give a shit about what you have to say.

But probably not.

John Tsouris said...

Wow. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion on something as objective as a movie. However, you're missing why this film sucks.

It is horrendously put together. That's it. Every tiny bit of this movie is horribly wrong from the directing to the acting, to worst of all..... the screenplay.

Let's break it down, shall we?:

1. The movie is actually superb right up to the murder. That's where it all falls apart stupendously. The giant pit the guy digs in the middle of the corn field is a plot hole big enough to drive a semi through. A ten by eight by eight foot hole cannot be dug with a shovel, let alone in one night. This dude apparently digs this thing while his truck is idling with the lights on in the middle of a harvested cord field just 150 years from an entire neighborhood.... and *nobody* sees it. And where does this guy put these several tons of dirt? This giant hole is miraculously also filled in the very next day after the murder while the murderer is shown cleaning his house for six hours. That's quite a feat.

2. What in the world is the purpose of showing 20 minutes (an eternity) of preposterous scenes of the afterlife? Giant bottled ships in the ocean? Really?

3. None of the acting is convincing, or relevant. Were they really trying to crowbar in a needless comedy scene in the middle where drunk Grandma is dancing in soap bubbles pouring out of the washing machine? And for God's sake, the victim narrating the story would say OUT LOUD that her murderer was feeling smug, etc.... yet the scene would actually not show him acting so. I could list 500 of these discrepancies, but gad.... why relive any of it.

4. The movie never explains its purpose. The victim stays behind for some apparent but unrevealed purpose we're told early on, but then.... >poof< we're never told why! Is she supposed to help find her killer? Well, if so, she does nothing of the sort. Is she to comfort her parents? Well, she doesn't do that, either. We still don't know.

5. The film obviously tries to convey (very poorly) that somehow, the victim should let go of her human life and behold the beauty of the afterlife in which all the terribleness that happened to her is meaningless. Yet, at the end of the film, her spirit murders him in cold blood. Whoa! Major contradiction!

This film was devoid of any purpose or entertainment whatsoever. It leaves you confused and indifferent in the end. In fact, the only feeling you definitely come away with is how bad it stunk, which is what has prompted the horrible reviews.

Spritely said...

I just finished watching this movie for the first time after putting it off for ages (wasn't in the mood to be depressed). I hated it. What I found most objectionable about it is that it, in the end, trivializes both the girl's death and the family's grief by not only letting her be forgotten, but suggesting that it is appropriate to let her be forgotten. The movie terms this as "letting go," but "letting go," to me, means finding a way to cope. It doesn't mean giving up the search for the child, or hoping, nay, fervently *praying*, for the capture and imprisonment of her killer. You never grow accustomed to loss, especially the loss of a child. Never. And you may never be "okay" by the world's standards again, but that's fine. It's hideous to say that anyone should simply accept the rape, torture, and murder of a beloved child, and the subsequent disappearance of her proven murderer (who, by the way, was a close neighbor for many years). This movie didn't even compute for me, it was just so offensive. It turns prolonged grief into something unhealthy and unattractive. Unrealistic and ridiculous.

Goldenrush Apple said...

@ John Tsouris:

Wait, you said everyone is entitled to his/her opinion and then you list why the writer "missed" the point of it being a bad movie? So people can't defend the movie while pointing out criticisms that he disagrees with? When did defending this movie became a universal fact? You can't have your cake and eat it too.

Like critics who skewed TLB, I'll do the same with your issues.

"2. What in the world is the purpose of showing 20 minutes (an eternity) of preposterous scenes of the afterlife? Giant bottled ships in the ocean? Really?"

The "in-between" is from Susie's perspective. Her sanctuary is made up of items and memories when she was alive. The giant bottled ships crashing is symbolism for her supposed future hobby with her dad - now rendered nonexistent because of her premature death. When the dad breaks the bottled ships out of anger, Susie's "in-between" world immediately shows it through her eyes. It's all symbolic but you obviously missed that.

"3. None of the acting is convincing, or relevant. Were they really trying to crowbar in a needless comedy scene in the middle where drunk Grandma"

Okay, I think you're just picking random stuff to complain about, and have no clue what acting is. Critics would disagree with you on Tucci and Ronan. Grandma was there to relieve Susie's mother who wasn't mentally fit to raise her two surviving children after Susie's death. A bit over the top, but I can understand her purpose.

"4. The movie never explains its purpose. The victim stays behind for some apparent but unrevealed purpose we're told early on, but then.... >poof< we're never told why! Is she supposed to help find her killer? Well, if so, she does nothing of the sort. Is she to comfort her parents? Well, she doesn't do that, either. We still don't know."

Because she was killed prematurely and didn't want to die. Have you ever felt you needed closure on something? Well, that feeling applies to Susie Salom - she wanted to become a wildlife photographer, have her first kiss and date with her crush, etc. but she never accomplished those things. She stayed in the "in-between" because she refuse to let go. That's the entire point of the movie. To let go of the past.

"5. The film obviously tries to convey (very poorly) that somehow, the victim should let go of her human life and behold the beauty of the afterlife in which all the terribleness that happened to her is meaningless. Yet, at the end of the film, her spirit murders him in cold blood. Whoa! Major contradiction!"

It's not a major contradiction, it's karma or what have you. It wasn't her spirit that did it. Susie died a gruesome death - a meaningless death, so it comes full circle to Mr. Harvey - he died
a pathetic death with no one knowing how he died, and since he was a recluse, I don't think anyone knew he actually died when compared to Susie's frantic family and her friends worrying.

Believe it, Lake Charles Asbestos Lawyer said...

I really enjoyed this movie, I belive in what goes around comes around and the bad guy in this movie gets just what he deserves..He should have gotten it sooner but the way he got It was very pleasing... Buy this movie folks, you won't be disapointed

James Hart said...

I liked the movie too, mostly, though I did squirm at Ray kissing Susie's ghost channeled through the dark-haired girl. I was surprised at Ebert's review when I looked it up - and I think your comments are fair-minded. I actually missed hearing about the film when it came out, and only got it from Netflix when I saw a preview on another older disk and saw it had Saoirse Ronan in it. Overall, I thought it was a weird film and was glad to have seen it, and I'll leave nitpicking to others.