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Too Much Heaven; Too Little Development,
This review is from: The Lovely Bones (DVD)
Because of its gruesome title, I wasn't interested in this story until I found out it was about a murdered 14-year-old girl making contact with her father from beyond the grave. Traces of morbid elements don't excite me, but bate a bleak title with eerie connections, and I'm hooked.
It was this attraction that drew me to the book, which I was fortunate enough to have read before viewing the film, which fared miserably in comparison. Like most screen-play adaptations dealing with complex emotions and deep thought processes, the movie needed to plot its action scenes and dialog carefully. This movie was especially challenged because it needed to convey a long-term healing process within one sitting, but instead of using its time wisely, character development was lost to over-indulged, super-surreal images of heaven that did nothing to transcend Susie's story or that of her grieving family.
Like the book, the movie reeled me in quickly as the horror, suspense, and tragedy of Susie's death was totally real and heartbreaking. But this hold gradually lost its grip as the story unwound.
While the movie effectively conveyed the need for both the living and dead to move on, Susie's father was the only fully developed and painfully tortured character. Susie's mother appears more sympathetic on screen than she did in writing, but her need to leave was not felt, and her departure seemed more like weeks than years.
There was no secret as to who killed Susie, but we learn little else about this man other than the fact that he killed before and builds dollhouses. But Susie's connection to the other victims was portrayed mainly in the afterlife, and the dollhouses themselves reveal nothing about their builder. It would have been so much more interesting if a subtle but vital clue was discovered in one of the miniature houses.
But the most under-developed characters were Susie's sister Lindsay and Susie's former classmate Ruth. Slightly rebellious and highly suspicious, Lindsay was the sister who was left to grow up, but we miss out on a lot from the time she receives a friendship necklace from a boy to when she's seen pregnant at the film's conclusion.
Gone were the camp scenes which would have drawn more attention to Ruth, who was obsessed with Susie's death and her images of souls wondering the earth. The book provided the camp for academically-enriched students like Lindsay and Ruth to draw a comparison to a contest to depict the perfect murder to the ironic way Susie's non-captured killer was finally brought to justice. The absence of these scenes was also a missed opportunity for a bit of comic relief among young people in an awkward situation.
Ruth's growing friendship with Susie's boyfriend Ray was also under-developed, and again the passage of time was lost. And while we see Susie using Ruth's body to make one last physical connection to Ray, unlike Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost, Ruth's role as a medium was more like an afterthought thrown in to conveniently wrap up the story and send Susie on her way.
Those who read the book are likely to be disappointed in the gaps the movie left open. And those who didn't read it are likely to feel let down from the initial momentum provided in the early scenes.