Alice Sebold's novel The Lovely Bones, the first time I read it, was one of those books that I forced upon the nearest person (my father, in this case) after I finished it so that I could have someone with whom to discuss it. I wasn't sure if my father, notorious for his humorless religiosity, would necessarily jive with the open-ended vision of the Afterlife that Sebold laid out in her best-seller, but I figured it was worth a shot. After all, the Heaven she wrote about wasn't by definition Godless, or overtly wrong in any sense. It was just different for every person. In an abstract way, almost anyone can get behind that concept. At least I'd like to think so.
Anyway, I'm a big fan of the novel. I know some people who couldn't get past the first few chapters, in which the main characters recounts her own rape and murder--it's sad and troubling and suspenseful and everything you would expect to find in a film, not a novel. Which is why I wasn't surprised that the book was made into a film, although I was very surprised to see Peter Jackson direct it. I haven't seen Heavenly Creatures (Should I?) and I had no idea Jackson was interested in humans, frankly.
Tonight I saw the movie with my father. The murder scene was blessedly subtle and short--no gore, no rape, no sound effects of fruit being thrown onto cement floors. I think that might have ruined the movie for me. There were some corpse scenes that I could have lived without, but overall nothing too nightmarish. I would let my children over the age of thirteen see it.
There were some things that were cut from the original story that I missed. Franny, Susie's counselor in Heaven, was unsuccessfully melded with the best friend character, whose story tied up way too neatly and who had some of the worst, striving-for-ethereal-but-stopping-at-silly lines. Sam and Lindsey's relationship, which was a fundamental part of the novel's plot, was reduced to two afterthought scenes. The grandmother became comic relief instead of a real character. However, Susie's descriptions of Heaven and the establishment of her relationship with her family were excellent. The Heaven managed to look idealized, like a calendar, without becoming so image-heavy that you got overwhelmed (Like in What Dreams May Come). The movie is only two hours, which is short for a Jackson film, and he manages to lose track of some of the characters are various points in the film. But overall, it was a pretty good movie. It was heartwrenching and sad and interesting and Stanley Tucci is HOLY CRAP SO SCARY BEST VILLAIN EVER. He has managed to make me develop a new fear of quiet bachelors with aviators and a comb-over. Possibly for the rest of my life. He was amazingly creepy.
They managed to add a few plot points to make the story a little more accessible without completely destroying the story. I could have done without the flashlight scene, but I can forgive it. Also, to those of you who have read the book: they change the icicle part. But it still works.
One more thing. The two best actors in the film were Susie (played by Saoirse "I have a friggin' AMAZING name" Ronan) and Lindsey (played by Rose McIver). They are both beautiful, poised, intelligent-looking girls and every scene that either of them is in is excellent. The most exciting scene by far was when Lindsey breaks into Mr. Harvey's house, and the most romantic (in the film--unfortunately a lot of my favorite romantic scenes from the book were cut) was one of the final scenes with Susie and Ray. I also loved how Rose McIver was so healthy-looking. She looks like a mid-nineties Kate Winslet. I hope she stays that way, but of course she won't if she wants to keep working. Damn you, Hollywood.