Saturday, January 30, 2010
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarondon
Director: Peter Jackson
Runtime: 135 min.
Verdict: Unwatchable. Boring. And of course, morally and emotionally hollow. A contemptible film.
Genre: Drama, Thriller
If there’s one thing that causes me to be greatly relieved, one thing that is good about Mr. Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, it is that I no longer am worried about the nature of the upcoming Tolkien adaptation The Hobbit. I had squirmed when Mr. Del Toro was attached to the project, a filmmaker who vomits visuals onto the screen rather than create. And I no longer worry for Mr. Jackson displays here his immense talent for throwing up absolutely needless imagery gift-wrapped as imagination. That it is emotionally diluting and is morally demeaning is a matter I suspect even Mr. Jackson is unaware of.
A little girl is murdered, and I suspect raped too. She is a girl of 12 or 14, and is played by Ms. Ronan. She narrates the story from heaven, and from whatever I watched of the film (44 min. + skimmed through the rest in 15 min.), she doesn’t betray one aspect of the crime committed on her. The film quite ridiculously and quite conveniently shirks the tough part by asking her little narrator to be so inexplicably unaware of it. What’s more, for a moment or two, she is even unaware she’s dead. Look this is not a 6-year old we’re speaking of, this is someone who would read poetry, is naturally perceptive (photography is her hobby), and is old enough to have a serious crush on a school senior.
So, for all his supposed imagination, how does Mr. Jackson deal with the crime? By an unimaginative cut. And then wrapping it in faux-art metaphorical imagery. The victim and the murdering psychopath (Mr. Tucci) sit in a little underground cabin, the former growingly aware of the latter’s ah-not-so-insidious intentions, and she makes a quick run for the exit. And cut. And when we cut back we see the little girl running across the fields and on the roads amidst what is supposed to be a surreal world. Remember Silent Hill? If you do, then try not to praise Mr. Jackson for his imaginative prowess. She runs and runs and runs, and runs with the blowing wind. She watches her dad (Mr. Wahlberg) and calls out and he doesn’t reply and she is dumbstruck and she runs into the house and there’s no one and she runs upstairs screaming and she’s her murderer naked in the bathtub. And she “disintegrates” from existence (the facts are that the crime involves rape, murder and body-chopping). You see, the movie is too precious and too artistic to simply be matter-of-fact about its tragedy and its grief, and instead indulges in throwing at us the same events in what is intended to be visual poetry.
And from then on, Mr. Jackson simply provides us obligatory footage of heaven, all colored in blinding yellow. He goes about it with such literal hamfistedness that it is impossible to feel anything. The father, in one of his displays of immense grief, breaks the ship-in-a-bottle models he created, and what we see in the little girl’s personal heaven is large ships-in-bottles coming to the shore and breaking. And here’s where I believe the supposed imaginative prowess of Mr. Jackson is found wanting. You see, The Lovely Bones, to put it simply, is about the healing of grief and for a family to come to terms with the tragedy. It is a matter of time, it is a matter of vacancy, it is a matter of space. It is a matter of filling up the space. The film is too indulgent in patting itself over every “strikingly beautiful image” that it absolutely has no idea how to go about it all. The film, for the large part, is framed too close for us to feel anything, and it often edits itself with the intentions of a thriller. I ask, why to waste time showing us the crime in the first place? We know she’s already dead. We know it is all inevitable. Why not just pluck the little girl out of the family’s life one fine day? But the film, ineffective as it is, needs to show that for us to gain the evil nature of the crime, and I’ve no firm idea what is gained out of it. On a cursory glance, the film might appear to be from the little girl’s perspective, but look closer, and it is about the peace of the family. That is what the little girl’s concerned about.
The Lovely Bones is completely unaware of that and it spends loads of needless time with the criminal and the crime. Now consider this dear reader. What if we had no idea of the criminal? We had no idea who he was. He was no more than a face and a fact. That he murdered the little girl. Consider the film from the family’s perspective being channeled out by the narrator. How profound the predicament might have been? When would the family have gained peace? When the criminal is nabbed? When he is brought to justice? When he’s dead? Or will love find them, just like that? I ask you these questions because the film pretends it is not vengeful in nature, because it ends with the family coming to peace on its own upon love. You know, the film wants to portray a sense of forgiving and a sense of large-heartedness. And that is something utterly despicable. Why? Because the film obligatorily chooses to kill its criminal by a stroke of fate, a justice from the heavens. Ultimately the film wants revenge. That is when the girl shall have peace. That is when the family will have peace. Then why pretend? You might as well go down the Death Wish route. At least, it is being truthful.
Posted by Satish Naidu at 4:23 PM