If your biggest problems are that you're feeling too good and life is going along swimmingly, The Lovely Bones is the movie for you. In this film, a sweet, pretty, happy and lovable 14 year old girl is raped and murdered by a serial killer, an act that sends her ghost to a dreamlike afterlife while her family descends into dysfunction and depression.
Roger Ebert pretty much covered my feelings about the film's supernatural aspects. Irish teen Saoirse Ronan (a Gaelic term meaning "unpronounceable name") plays Susie Salmon, the girl destined to meet her end at the hands of Stanley Tucci's character George Harvey, a vicious killer who takes pleasure not only in actual murder but in both elaborately planning the act and vividly reliving it again and again. As Ebert pointed out, when Susie dies it's presented as a plus for her. She goes to the In-Between, a place that's not-quite Heaven but still pretty cool whose nature is limited only by Susie's emotions and imagination. The one thing that really ruins the good time she's having in what she describes as her perfect world is her ability to observe her family and her killer from where she is. The only other person there is an Asian girl her age who goes by the name Holly Golightly. She said changing your name is one of the things you can do in Heaven. Isn't that just awesome? I know I can't wait to die now. I'm going to call myself Billy Lee Hotpants. Holly encourages Susie to take the plunge and move on from the In-Between to an even cooler place but instead she remains for years both observing and feeding her family's downward spiral.
Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz play her parents Jack and Abigail. It's established early on that Jack is someone who never gives up on a goal once he sets it and this is proved true once he decides to personally investigate his daughter's death. His obsession sets his family into such a tailspin that Abigail says the hell with it, leaves and gets a job in an orange grove. Don't worry though. The kids' coarse, vulgar, functioning alcoholic grandmother (Susan Sarandon) comes to take care of them. I can't remember who but someone on Twitter correctly referred to her as this movie's version of Jar Jar. There's a comedy montage in the middle of the movie with moments like putting too much soap in the washing machine that are more in line with 1970s television than with a tragic drama made in 2009.
The movie's not all bad. I have no problem with any of the acting. Director Peter Jackson lets us all know once again that he has the ability to take what's in his imagination and put it on a movie screen. Poor Susie's afterlife is an extended dream sequence that is often a feast for the eyes.
Still, it's hard to get past the fact that we're depressed from the moment the movie starts right up until it tries to tell us that the film's final moments are actually a happy ending because Susie's cruel death wasn't so bad since she's in a great place where the landscape transforms at your whim and you can change your damn name.