February 28, 2017

Addendum: Movie Review || The Lovely Bones

I'll come right out and say it - the film version of 'The Lovely Bones' was disappointing. Was it because I watched it so soon after reading the novel by Alice Sebold? Perhaps. But I don't think it would be unfair of me to say that this was not it at all.

Peter Jackson's 'The Lovely Bones' certainly had the main plotline down: a girl is murdered and experiences heaven while simultaneously watching as her family learns to live with her death. The film tried sooooo hard to create that fleeting sense of Susie at once being in heaven and on Earth with her family. It tried to use stunning visuals of the natural world that made up Susie's heaven and how she interacted with it to show the passing of time on Earth. But for someone who hadn't read the novel, I think it would be too confusing, especially since the characters did not appear to age as much as they did in the novel, with the exception of Lindsey, who marries and can be seen pregnant at the end of the film.

I was impressed with Stanley Tucci's performance as George Harvey, the serial killer who murders Susie. He was indeed awkward and chilling and his performance was on point - I especially loved the contact lenses, since his familiar face was distorted. Mark Wahlberg was, as Susie's dad Jack, typically Mark Wahlberg-y - angry instead of despairing and desperate as I read the character. I was disappointed also that the story disregarded a lot of what Susie's mom, Abigail, was experiencing: her love affair with the consulting detective was left out entirely, and I think this actually played a large part in why she decided to leave the family, because it reminded her that she was something other than simply a mother.

The story was significantly simplified: Lindsey comes to suspect Harvey before her father does, who only remembers Harvey when he spots him in one of Susie's photo sets; Ray Singh has been reduced to a love interest, and for some reason becomes the biggest thing that Susie misses while she's in heaven - she cannot even rest until she possesses Ruth and kisses him; Ruth is reduced to the girl who saw Susie's ghost and the film disregards her psychic talents; and poor Grandma Lynn has become nothing but comic relief, among other things.

I suppose the subject matter of the book is much more complicated than could be carried across to film - there is just something about Sebold's novel that is deeper and more insightful than the film expresses. While both the novel and the book attempt to bring a positive spin on grief, I feel like the film was too focused on a happy ending and justice for Susie - after all, when Harvey dies at the end, it is his death we view in gruesome shots - it feels as though the redemption of Susie's family had to happen when Harvey dies. In the novel, the reality is that redemption is self-made, a decision that each individual makes to retain the bones of family and friendship ties instead of break them.

{Movie poster credit: By Source, Fair use, Link}
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February 25, 2017

Book Review || The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

I could not put Alice Sebold's 'The Lovely Bones' down. Literally. Thankfully I was ill this entire week and had ample opportunity to not put it down, and finding out what's become of Susie and her family and her killer became an itching need when I wasn't holding the book in my hand. This novel will break your heart and then smear some hope all over the bloody pieces.

Sebold's writing is difficult to describe: it feels a bit like when you're waking from a dream of being surrounded by butterflies' wings brushing your cheeks and you swear that, upon opening your eyes, the dusty scales from their wings are floating around catching the light when it's really just dust motes. This unique ability of placing the reader in two worlds at once is the most compelling part of this novel. Descriptions of the world around the characters is so whimsical yet feel so removed from history that nothing seems real, and this is the perfect metaphor for how it must feel for a family to suddenly and violently lose a loved one.

Through the use of Susie's ghost, every character becomes practically transparent - we know everything there is to know about their motivations and their history because Susie is now timeless. This is the perfect use of an omniscient narrator and I'm not certain I've ever come across one that has been so successful without being obtrusive.

Susie's death obviously has a profound effect on everyone who had her in their lives. Her father becomes obsessive, her mother escapes, her sister hardens her heart, her brother resents the loss of attention. She is never far in the thoughts of friends and family and perhaps it is this connection that allowed her to see so much and so purely into their hearts. What I liked the most about this situation was that there was no narrative judgment: Susie seemed to harbour nothing but unconditional love for those she observed and this is a wonderful thing to believe of our spirits when we leave.

The heaven that Sebold presents to us probably fits everyone's idea of it. It is different and perfect for every individual, and we'll have access to everyone we've lost in the past, whether we remember them or not. The spirit's ability to linger in the real world to give literal spiritual support is something every grieving family hopes for. Whether I can believe that to be true is another story.

'The Lovely Bones' is an addicting read that is written with a truly unique spirit and you shouldn't miss it. Thankfully, I had not seen the film at the time of writing, so nothing was spoiled for me and we'll see if the film can match the novel. Keep an eye out for my addendum soon!

UPDATE: Find out whether the film could match up in my addendum!

Have you read the novel and what did you think? What is your idea of heaven?
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