Tulsa TV Memories      

Saoirse Ronan

"The Lovely Bones"; a film review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

I don't know how "Lord of the Rings" film director Peter Jackson did it, but he's made a well-cast, spiritually uplifting family movie that's as creepy as "The Silence of the Lambs." But wait! The film targets young females and, believe it or not, has funny scenes in it and imaginative computer graphic art to die for.

And that's exactly what Susie Salmon does for us in this picture, called "The Lovely Bones." Fourteen year-old Susie dies for us, or more specifically, she's raped and murdered in 1973 by a serial killer who lives down the block from where she, her mom, dad, sis and little brother live in a medium-sized Pennsylvania town.

Susie spends most of "Bones'" running time stalled at a halfway point between earthly existence and being in Heaven. This lovely purgatory is punctuated by how all of it would look through the mind and eyes of a never-been-kissed girl just making passage over the threshold of womanhood.

Susie hasn't yet disconnected from her grieving family or even the creepy neighbor. With her father's and sister's stubborn, undying love, and Susie's desire to help the family heal---as well as, nail her assailant---the dead girl makes a subtle, spiritual liaison across computer-generated stretches of intertwined beatific and natural scenery that bring predictable results back home and a telegraphed destination for her lovely soul: that soul being housed in the body of an immensely talented young actor named Saoirse Ronan.

Saoirse Ronan
Saoirse Ronan

Ms. Ronan was born in New York City and will be 16 this spring on the day before my younger daughter's 18th birthday, which may have something to do with how I feel about this film.

Ms. Ronan is already an Oscar nominee. That happened in 2007 for her superb performance as Briony in Joe Wright's better and, in fact, excellent motion picture called, "Atonement." See that one, and if you have, already, see it again to get an earlier bead on Saoirse Ronan's undisputed talent.

For it is Saoirse, most of all, who made me believe "The Lovely Bones" (as I watched it) couldn't be any better than it is. But…it could be….better….if only Peter Jackson and his writing team of Fran Walsh and Philipa Boyens had avoided trying to put most everything from Alice Sebold's well-received, same-titled novel in their screenplay. Walsh and Boyens have previously written with Jackson on several of his successful film projects.

Others in the "Bones" cast, although not as compelling as Ronan, are quite good: Mark Wahlberg as the dad; Rachel Weisz, the mother, Rose Mclver, the sister; Michael Imperioli, the detective and the so fine Stanley Tucci as the killer. Mr. Tucci may soon be eclipsing Hannibal Lecter (aka Anthony Hopkins) for Creepiest Dude Ever Seen in a Movie.

Stanley Tucci
Stanley Tucci

A fine actor, also with mucho award baggage, has her moments in "The Lovely Bones," too. Susan Sarandon plays the family's fraternal grand mother. Sarandon sort of runs loose on the set for the sake of needed laughter-release from moviegoers, who, earlier in the film, have seen a nightmarish bathroom scene with Tucci in the tub---bathing. Implication being: with Susie's ghost watching, he's cleansing himself after dismembering Susie's body. That takes me to the weird-out zone in movie-watching. Happily, Mr. Jackson directs Mr. Tucci to remain mostly submerged. Had to bring it in "a PG-13," I guess. As I saw the movie, though, it looked like an "R," especially with the tub scene and the killer's luring of innocent Susie into a candle-lit, underground bunker.

You'll be pleased to learn that Jackson doesn't give the viewer any of the girl's dismemberment---or the rape and murder. Both of those happen below the adjacent and bucolic neighborhood cornfield in the planned and prepared lair Tucci's character has dug to hide his atrocious action. How freaking creepy can you get?

Would you believe Jackson's early film, "Heavenly Creatures"?

But Saoirse Ronan is what's important insofar as "The Lovely Bones," the movie, is concerned. Film nuts have been raving about her since "Atonement," and well they should. But I'll stick my neck out right here and now to predict that this young lady can forge a trail through the film biz that might come to be as comparable as that already plowed by the great Meryl Streep. Saoirse just has to stay focused and show the determination of the gritty and impeccably flexible Ms. Streep. Saoirse Ronan, I think, certainly has as much talent and charisma. And that is saying a bunch.

"The Lovely Bones" official site.

Now playing at the Hollywood-Promenade Palace 12 in Tulsa.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2010, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

Chew's Reviews    Who is Gary Chew?    Main page