While eating vegetarian pizza in the food court of Skycity on Queen Street last night, I thought to myself, ‘The movies appear to be the only thing left in this society of ours that consistently run on time.’ I thought too soon. Film pre-screenings, it would seem, have become subject to that most frustrating of all frustrations – cellphone confiscation. Because, you know, we’re all going to record the entire film, frame by frame, with our spy-quality camera phones. Or maybe it’s the fault of Twitter. Who knows. My best good friend Sheida and I waited in line for 30 minutes as each show-goer handed over their phone in exchange for a small paper raffle ticket. Everyone was annoyed. Three couples walked out, muttering obscenities, and a fellow writer decided that the wait wasn’t worth what was more than likely going to be a disappointing film. Sheida and I stayed patient though – who were we to look a free-film-horse in the mouth?
And anyway, by the time we arrived, the cinema staff were so fed up with the complaints that they didn’t even ask for our phones.
I’ll be honest. I was prejudiced going in. I’d read all of The Lovely Bones‘ bad reviews, and though I knew I’d try to give it the benefit of the doubt, I wasn’t expecting all that much. The first five minutes were slow. Agonisingly so. Slow to the point where I was already nudging Sheida in the seat beside me and whispering, “That was not a very good intro.”
I was a fan of the book. Which always makes watching the film difficult. Like when Susan Sarandon’s Grandmother character suddenly jumps into the dialogue about how Suzie likes Ray. It all just sounds so manufactured and cringey.
But I digress.
The slow pace triumphs in some places and fails in others. Stanley Tucci’s disturbingly accurate George Harvey draws out the slowest moments with the most intense creepery you’ve ever seen. Everyone was shivering in their seats. Then other times, the pace is just plain unnecessary – like someone crossing the street, with the camera lingering on every step.
And don’t get me started on heaven.
Heaven seemed to me to be nothing more than an excuse for Peter Jackson to flex his studio’s buffed and well oiled muscles. Yes, we know that you’re good at CGI. But do you have to keep proving it for half the damn film?
But the thing that got me the most was the way the script writers completely cut out the relationships in the film. Gone was the sister/brother union between Lindsey and Buckley, gone was Lindsey’s support for Jack after his wife leaves. Forget about the relationship between Jack and his wife, or Lindsey and her boyfriend, or Ray and Ruth. And Len Fenerman’s forbidden trysts with Abigail Salmon? Not even alluded to.
All the relationships in the film were abandoned in favour of Peter Jackson’s heaven and Peter Jackson’s love of the longest moments imaginable. Which in a way, killed the heart of the film. Because what is The Lovely Bones if not a story about the relationships between a group of people trying to move on from the death of a daughter, a sister, a friend, a lover.
But what it became was simply a film about a father and daughter trying to find a killer (with the dead daughter/sister’s supernatural assistance from beyond the grave); and a killer trying to elude them.
Which leads me to think, despite my national pride, perhaps Peter Jackson wasn’t the man for the job. And, now that I think about it, perhaps a man wasn’t the man for the job. The book was written with love by a woman, maybe it would have had more emotional impact had it been directed with love by a woman.