Will “Bones” Break In Move From Page To Screen?

I generally have three reactions to the novels I read: I could do that, I could do better than that, I could never do that.  By the way,  answer number three is by far the most prevalent choice (humor me and act surprised) especially after encountering something as brilliant as Alice Sebold’s “The Lovely Bones.”

This difficult and unforgettable story moves to the big screen next week in the capable, but sometimes over-reaching hands of director Peter Jackson.  Yes, his place in film history is secure with “The Lord Of The Rings” … but “King Kong” is on his resume too.  It’s actually one of his earliest films that gives me the most hope for “The Lovely Bones” …  1994’s “Heavenly Creatures” deals with some similar themes: murder, teen protagonists, and a fantasy or other world.  Still, “The Lovely Bones” is the more challenging work.

“Heavenly Creatures” was based on a notorious, real life, murder case in New Zealand.  “The Lovely Bones” springs from the imagination and life experience of a writer who was raped as a college student, and lived to testify against, and help convict, her attacker.  In “Heavenly Creatures” a troubled and self-absorbed teen girl retreats to a fantasy kingdom where she controls events … in “The Lovely Bones” a murdered teen girl watches events on earth from heaven.

The heaven Sebold has created for Susie Salmon in “The Lovely Bones” is one entirely of her character’s making.  Susie is a 15-year-old from the suburbs and her heaven reflects that … soccer fields, gazebos, street lights.  It’s a place of peace and contentment, a very different place from the world, and family she left behind.

In the novel, you can picture this quite naturally, but putting it on film means actually showing it.  That’s a real 360 degree turn for a movie goer.  You’ve got this intense family drama and crime procedural on earth, and a teen girl’s somewhat goofy heaven playing against each other.  It works so well in the novel, but will it transcend on screen?

Jackson has the money reputation and storytelling cred to bring this story to the screen, but should he have?  I can’t help feeling that this particular piece of art can best be experienced on the page. The movie opens next Friday in Boston (January 15) so we’ll all find out together.  Yes, I know the film opened in December in limited release .. and to mixed reviews .. but I’m reserving comment until I see it.

I will say this, read the novel before you see the film, and watch “Heavenly Creatures” … I hate giving homework assignments, but honestly to make an informed assessment you have to do both things.

Some quick thoughts on the movie casting before I go.

Mark Wahlberg as the Dad.  I’m totally curious.  Could be genius … or folly.

Rachel Weisz as the Mom … sold.

Susan Sarandon as Grandma Lynn.  Grandma! Sigh. She’ll nail it.

Michael Imperioli as the cop.  It takes place in the 70’s … he just walked off the set of “Life On Mars” … maybe he just hung onto the wardrobe!  He’s fun to watch.

Looking forward to seeing it and discussing it.  Hope you are too.

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One Response

  1. I do not even want to see the movie. For me, the violent pictures “in my head” were bad enough. I just recently read the book. The author had me hooked in the first paragraph. I passed it on to friends with the comment that the book (theme) was “horrible” but so well-written that one cannot put it down.

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