THE LOVELY BONES directed by Peter Jackson (USA/UK/New Zealand, 2009)
“I was here for a moment, then I was gone. I wish you all a long and happy life”. This is how Susie Salmon, 14-year-old murder victim signs off.
She’s speaking from the ‘in-between’ world that is neither heaven or hell but is inhabited by her killer’s other victims. They drift serenely through cornfields under a vivid blue sky – an idealized world that you might find on a tacky greetings card. Peter Jackson pulls out all the stops to recreate this fantasy world, all it lacks are few Hobbits scampering around.
Meanwhile back on earth, Susie’s family are torn apart by her demise. It’s a story that would make more sense if Susie’s ghostly self could intervene directly and point them towards the serial killer. Instead, she merely hovers around while her father develops some kind of sixth sense and realizes who has done the dastardly deed.
You are left to assume that the murderer is sexually motivated but in Jackson’s sugar and spice take on Alice Sebold’s novel all such nastiness is implied and none is shown. Lynne Ramsey was slated to direct this until Film 4 went belly up and she would surely have given the story the harder edge it desperately needs. She spoke of disliking what she called the “my little pony, she’s in heaven’ story”. Jackson just wants to make a fantasy movie about a dark subject and it’s mix that never works.