In case you don't already know, the subject of The Lovely Bones as well as Alice Sebold's best-selling book on which the new movie is based is that most horrendous of nightmares: the murder of a 14-year old. Imagining the challenge of making such an event watch-worthy, even enjoyable, I marvel at the ingenuity of Peter Jackson, the talented director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Heavenly Creatures, among other favorites of mine.
As in the novel, Susie Salmon (Saorise Ronan) speaks from the beyond, micromanaging the affairs of those left mourning her loss. But where exactly is she? In a pastel paradise evoking the paintings of Peter Max. You could say that this colorful imagery is excessive, as if strawberry and lime lollipops could soften the somber tones of hell on earth, what cannot ever be made palatable. As such, these scenes where Jackson attempts to get into Susie's dreams "once she has left her body," as he told me at the movie's premiere, don't always work.
But no matter, this is a must-see movie, particularly for Stanley Tucci's brilliant performance as Mr. Harvey. Adorable in Julie & Julia and in Devil Wore Prada, here he is a menacing loner, mopping his sweaty brow as he peers through his suburban windowpanes at joyful children. Susan Sarandon is the show-stealing cool, kooky grandma Lynn who gives facials and advice on kissing to the young teens. New Zealand actress Rose Mciver is excellent as Susie's sister Lindsey, as is Michael Imperioli as the cop who cares.
Just back from the London premiere hosted by Prince Charles and Camilla, this cast was joined by a diverse crowd of well-wishers at the Oak Room: Cathy Moriarty, Aiden Quinn, Sylvia Miles, Patricia Clarkson, Steve Buscemi, Bob Balaban. Saorise Ronan, from a small town in Southern Ireland, told me she got the part of Susie after her father made a video of her reading her lines. You may remember her as the young girl in Atonement-the villain, as I called her. Yes, said Saoirse, "if you have to hate anyone in that movie, that would be me."