Friday, September 28, 2007

The Lovely Bones

When I heard that Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) was going to direct the film version of Alice Sebold's critically acclaimed book, The Lovely Bones, with Ryan Gosling, Rachel Weisz, and Susan Sarandon rounding out the cast, I decided I might as well see what all the fuss was about. After all, The Lovely Bones has been a book-club favorite since it's release in 2002.

The plot centers around Susie Salmon, who is raped and murdered by creepy-but-seemingly-normal-neighbor George Harvey, before the book begins. From Heaven, Susie watches her family and friends cope with her death for the next 10 years in a coming-of-age Wonder Years/Ghost mash-up kind of way. Sebold paints a family portrait with small, delicate strokes, giving us even the smallest details of the Salmons and lets them grow until they become something that resembles a real post-tragedy family:

Mother Abigal deals with her sadness by having an affair with the detective assigned to their case and father Jack is the penultimate family man, holding the family together, even while he seeks revenge. Sister Lindsey finds a boyfriend and doesn't let herself crack under the stress. Meanwhile, friend Ruth and boyfriend Ray become friends when they find a connection with the dead.

It'll be hard for Jackson to translate the book to the silver screen. After all, Susie is a character who watches life on Earth from a gazebo in Heaven and occasionally appears to family and friends as a ghost or a figment of their imagination. I especially can't wait to see how he handles the controversial scene where Susie comes back to Earth, having possessed her friend Ruth to settle some unfinished business. Handled the wrong way, the film could become a corny ghost story instead of the raw human drama that it really is. But Jackson deserves the benefit of the doubt. He flawlessly updated The Lord of the Rings and his remake of King Kong was an ambitious film with as much heart as special effects.

One thing is for sure, bring tissues to the theater. The beauty and the sadness of The Lovely Bones is sure to create some lovely tears.

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