Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ryan Watches A Motion Picture #34: The Lovely Bones (2009)

Mark 'One Face' Wahlberg!

I miss Peter Jackson. The Peter Jackson I once knew.

A man who could make a movie with a kung-fu-fighting catholic priest. A man who thought it best to use a lawnmower to destroy zombies. A man who would make a character take a sip from a bowl of puke so that the aliens wouldn't think he was a spy. The guy who took a decent crack at the Lord of the Rings.

But something changed. Something happened to him in Mordor that I will not utter here. And then he forgot how to make his movies interesting.

Peter Jackson's filmmaking has become, I think, pretty boring and pretty manipulative. The emotions he strikes with are overzealous, the tactics used to deploy them typical, the end concoction powerfully mediocre. He's become pedestrian.

The Lovely Bones suffers from some kind of bipolar disorder. A depressing or heartbreaking scene will be followed by a jaunty one meant to make you laugh and relieve the thin gravity of the previous scene, only to plunge back into the sombre and then soar up towards visual magic and wonder. The movie seems to think that emotions are simple, clear, and can be called upon at the drop of a hat, or often in this case, at the turn of a soundtrack. The movie is pretty over-scored, and when coupled with the frequent moments of pseudo-poetic and voice-over-delivered reflection, Lovely feels like it's constantly ending. And at a two and a half hour runtime, this gets pretty maddening. As the moments go by you might realize that you care less and less about what's happening on the screen, which seems strange when you consider that the movie is about a murdered little girl stuck in a visually fantastic purgatory. Which, by the way, points to the central drive of the flick - the spectacle of WETA workshop's digital effects, hammering all else to the side.

So: Peter Jackson still trying to impress a post LOTR crowd by adapting a moderately risque book. His talents lie elsewhere.

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