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In a few weeks, it's going to be Oscar night. A lot of interesting movies are on the line-up. Pretty sure Avatar is going to win the mother of it all: Best Picture. If you ask me, that movie was just eye candy. Story-wise, it was lackluster. I say Hurt Locker is a far better movie. And if we're talking CGI, Up was infinitely better.

But I digress. This post is not really about my passive-aggressive disdain for the Bandwagon Culture (TM), but about this movie by Peter Jackson (yes, that Peter Jackson), oddly called The Lovely Bones. It's based on the novel of the same title by Alice Sebold and is about this kid, 14-year-old Susie Salmon (like the fish!) who was raped and brutally murdered by her pedophile neighbor, and the story of how "the lovely bones" grew around her absence.

That's about as stark as I can write it. Naturally, the story is quite dark and quite intense. However, novelist Sebold makes it bearable by making Susie, the victim, it's narrator. The twist in the perspective makes the story click and what we get is a movie that exudes so much positivity (also, 60s dresses, butterflies and candy-colored heaven) that the minute family drama seems almost overwhelmed.

So. Peter Jackson does heaven.

WHY I LIKE IT

The movie has a lot of shining moments. Stanley Tucci who is up for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for this role plays creepy, dollhouse-freak pedophile convincingly. The fact that he has a mustache and hair that seemed to have landed on his head at an opportune time makes his image even more convincing. Also, Susie reveals her murderer's identity like five minutes into the movie. So yeah, big clue there.

Incidentally, even though this movie proceeds from the premise of a child's murder, it isn't about catching the bad guy. I mean, yes, the movie does vindicate that matter but rather than making it the focus of the entire story, it's only there to provide some closure (mainly for the benefit of the audience). Of course, we want to see poetic justice. The bad guy needs to get what he deserves, and Peter Jackson delivers, without, however, plunging into another cop procedural.

Speaking of cops, I just recalled something which has nothing to do at all with cops and everything to do with suspense. The Lovely Bones isn't big on it. In fact, there is only one really suspenseful moment throughout the entire movie and I nearly shat my pants when I saw it. It was that...hair-raising, for lack of a better word.

This story's strength really comes from its unusual take on POV. That said, we can all fully expect that the movie is going to be littered with the mental expositions of a teenager. That means, hormones, angst, and oh -- did I mention hormones? But amazingly, it's not annoying. I think part of the credit should go to Saoirse Ronan, the actress who plays Susie. Some of us may remember her from Atonement, a movie which I did not particularly take to nor find Ronan's performance in it particularly remarkable. However, if I was unsure about Ronan's capabilities as an actress in that movie, there is no doubt in my mind now that she is someone to look out for.

A lot of people seem to take issue on the fact that Peter Jackson has "toned down" the story in order to fit a younger audience. For instance, the movie barely even implies the real circumstances of Susie's death: the rape was definitely flossed over while the murder was only heavily implied (no actual scene of violence is depicted). Personally, I think that's a relief rather than a flaw. I don't think I would have been able to stand it if the movie was more "true to the novel." I mean, I am interested in reading the novel but I don't think I would be able to watch a movie that would be absolutely true to it, especially if the novel is really that graphic and dark.


WHY I DON'T LIKE IT

But for all the good things about this movie, there is one bad thing about it which I suspect is the reason this isn't a great movie.

We all know Peter Jackson for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. We all know about his ability to make the camera practically drip with otherwordly eye-candy from sweeping grand vistas of grassy slopes to woodlands of wonderfully intricate and mangly trees. Well, he puts that magic touch to good use here. Too much good use as he imagines and creates and ultimately luxuriates in his imaginary heaven. While I don't mind getting a little look-see on what his idea of "heaven" is, I'd really much prefer seeing what's going on in the world down below. But no, Jackson is far too in love with the whole idea that we miss on a golden opportunity: the family drama that subtly unfolds after Susie dies.

We only get glimpses of it and we can't help but wonder: Why are we spending so much time bouncing around in heaven when the whole point of this movie is what happens to the people left behind after a loved one dies? I mean, are we supposed to buy into the idea that after little children get raped and murdered, life is just butterflies and lollipops?

The choice that Jackson made in spending more reels depicting this surreal heaven instead of focusing on the human element of the story is a fatal mistake. As a result the story loses its momentum in key moments as it seems to weave in and out of heaven and back again to the real world.


THE VERDICT

The Lovely Bones is an absorbing film that intrigues the mind and pleases the eyes but might leave you a little hanging for some more if you like your drama.

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