Where New Pulp Lives! And from Time to Time...Dies!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Movie Evisceration - The Lovely Bones

It’s very rare that a movie pisses me off. Yes, I find movies I hate. Movies that annoy. But for a movie to piss me off, it has to do one thing: betray me.

The Lovely Bones betrayed me therefore it pissed me off.

I actually enjoyed part of the movie. As it neared the halfway point, I started to transition to annoyance. As it rolled toward the climax, I found myself hating it. But then it reached the ending and boy howdy, was I pissed.

Before I explain, SPOILER ALERT. I’m going to ruin this movie. I mean ruin it. Stomp on it. Take it out in my front yard and drop a deuce on it. If you haven’t seen it and don’t want it ruined, please stop reading. Because here we go.

The Plot

The Lovely Bones is about a teenage girl named Susie Salmon. Yes, Salmon. In the movie, she introduces herself as such, “My name is Salmon. Like the fish. First name: Susie.” Now that should sound vaguely familiar. Like maybe they ripped it off.

There was a movie called The Green Mile in which there was a character named Jon Coffey. This movie was, of course, based on a book of the same name by Stephen King. King is well known for creating character with memorable names. He has a way of tying memory devices to names. So, in this case, the character in the movie says, “My name is John Coffey. Like the drink only not spelled the same.” Now we have a memorable name. Not one easily forgotten.

I contest the writers (both book and screenplay) did the same thing here. Only with a dumb name. We remember it, no problem. And it’s kind of cute. Susie Salmon. All rolls together. In and of itself, no big deal. But as soon as I heard her introduce herself I thought, Green Mile. So, I call rip-off.

Anyway, I digress. Susie is dead. No big alert there. She says it right off the bat. She’s dead. Murdered. Looking down on it from somewhere above. Okay, got it. We get the back story, how she was murdered, the impact on the family, the determination of the father to catch the killer, the family falling apart, Susie playing with other victims in heaven, CGI effects, a cliché serial killer, yadda yadda yadda.

In reality, there is no plot. There’s no murder mystery. There’s no intense chase. There’s no resolution. There’s no redemption. There’s no revenge. There’s no sacrifice. This is a story about a family hit by tragedy, ripped apart and sewn back together. That is it. Wow.

The First 1/3 of the Movie

After Susie tells us she’s dead, we get the backstory. She likes a boy. She likes taking photos. We also meet George Harvey, the creepy guy who lives alone and makes doll houses. He designs a bunker. Builds it himself in a cornfield. Then lures Susie into it and kills her, cuts her up, and puts her body in a safe.

We also learn there’s this chick who can like sense dead people or something so that when Susie’s spirit passes her, she senses it. This character has no real purpose in the movie other than to be a convenient device. More on this later.

So the family eventually looks for Susie and the cops look for Susie and George is questioned but there’s no evidence and people are sad and the dad is obsessed and Susie is in this in-between place that isn’t Heaven or Hell but no one calls it Limbo. And she watches all this crap unfold from above while hanging out with the other dead victims of George.

Not the best beginning but not terrible. There’s potential for suspense as dad digs up evidence and starts to suspect George. Meanwhile, we watch the family start to suffer under strain and loss. Then we enter the shitty parts of the movie.

The Second 1/3 of the Movie

At this point, the cops have demonstrated a complete lack of intelligence in deducing who the killer is. The dad suspects but is still digging. Let’s examine the facts:

George is creepy. He has shifty eyes. A comb over. A pornstar moustache. He’s creepy. He makes doll houses. He lives alone. He’s creepy. He mumbles. He has nervous ticks. He’s creepy. He lives in a family neighborhood all by himself. He’s ritualistic. He’s creepy.

The cops talk to him but deduce there’s nothing to go on.

Really? People have been arrested and interrogated on less circumstantial evidence. What’s more they didn’t have to arrest him. A simple search warrant would suffice. Call him a suspect, and get a fucking warrant. I do believe that a search warrant allows the police to search the entire house and contents within. Which includes the blueprints to the bunker and, uh, a safe in the basement containing the human remains of our girl Susie. Even if George plays dumb and can’t remember the combo, the police can call in a safe cracker. Done.

But that wouldn’t be convenient, would it?

Hey asshole, why not keep the safe in your super secret bunker no one can seem to find? Maybe the blueprints, too. Then we could have had smart cops execute a warrant, not find anything and then dismiss you as a creepy suspect. Why, if that happened, then, we wouldn’t have the intense seen of Susie’s sister breaking into your house and finding evidence. Nope, can’t have that. So in the basement it goes. More on that later.

Meanwhile, back at Wayne Manor, dad’s obsessive drive has ruined his marriage. Mom, being the chickenshit she is, leaves the ENTIRE family for California. Dad confronts George but accidentally interrupts some teens making nookie in the cornfield and promptly gets the shit kicked out of him. Another convenient event that keeps the heat off George while dad recovers.

In the afterlife, Susie does some shit and there’s CGI.

The Last 1/3 of the Movie

Okay, we’ve moved from not too bad a movie to bad movie over the first 2/3 of the film. Now we descend into true pain. The end. And we learn what pissed me off.

Again, up to this point the only mystery in the film is whether the family will pin the murder on George or will he get away with it. Enter Lindsey, Susie’s sister. She takes it upon herself to find the proof no one else has managed to find. So, she breaks into George’s house. Finds a loose floor board, lifts it up, and discovers the blueprint to the bunker, a lock of Susie’s hair, and several news articles about the murder. All right, the proof. This fucker is going down.

George comes home while Lindsey is still in the house. He hears her. A short but intense chase scene occurs and Lindsey narrowly escapes. George freaks, packs, and hauls ass out of town. First, though, he dumps the safe in a sinkhole on the way out.

While the safe is being dumped, Susie watches and at this moment decides to descend to earth and enter the body of the chick who could sense dead people. And here we have the convenience of all conveniences. This character has served no other purpose in the film other than to act as a vehicle for Susie to make contact with a boy she had a crush on. Not to stop or kill George. Not to tell anyone, “Hey my body is in that safe.” Nope, to say hi to the boy and get a kiss. Her last wish. Gosh.

The boy realizes it’s her and is cool with it. Not freaked out. Not jumping up and down screaming, “What the fuck?! What the fuck?!” He’s all like, “Susie, it’s been too long.” And she’s like, “Yeah, kiss me you brooding fucker.”

You have to remember, these two literally shared a minute of time together at the beginning of the film before Susie was killed and dismembered. They flirted. They had an interest in each other. There’s was no bond of love established. No eternal tie. This scene made no sense other than to give Susie’s earthly life a bit of closure. Even then, though, it would have made more sense for her to go back and say bye to her dad. You know, the guy who’s been hunting down proof of your murder. Yeah, Susie, you selfish bitch, how about saying bye to your loved ones instead of getting your groove on?

Now I haven’t read the book but understand it took this scene one step further. They didn’t just kiss. Susie and boy-toy go off and shag. What the fuck? Now you have to remember that Susie is in another chick’s body. So, was the chick cool with letting Susie bang her current boyfriend with her body? If not, does this count as rape? Does this count at necrophilia? Is Susie still fourteen mentally? Is this pedophilia? Why would she wait until that moment to descend and screw? Why hasn’t she been doing it all along? Why, why, why?

Lindsey returns home, ready to show the proof. But wait, mom’s back. The selfish bitch Susie so clearly takes after. She’s back because dad has had a heart attack. Guess she wants to make up. Or maybe she realized she’s a selfish bitch and that she should be raising her kids, not her alcoholic mother. So, no big reveal of evidence. Instead, we get a reunion. Super.

As a result of the reunion, Lindsey gives the evidence to grandma while everyone else stands and looks at mom. What does grandma do? Nothing. Nothing at all that we know of. The movie never shows. No cops in a room asking about the status of an APB or a manhunt or anything. Instead, the movie shifts to George sometime later, somewhere cold, trying to coax a young girl into his car. She tells him no and walks off. As he watches her go, an icicle drops off a tree branch and knocks him into a ravine where he dies.

Yes, he is killed by a convenient icicle and no one knows he dies.

Fuck you Peter Jackson and whoever wrote the book.

Back at Wayne Manor, the family has moved on and is rebuilding relationships. Swell. Susie is in the afterlife watching everyone move on with their lives and healing and overcoming the loss of Susie. She refers to these as lovely bones growing around her absence. Yeah, whatever.

The movie thus ends.

Why I Feel Betrayed

The movie pissed me off because it ends with no real resolution. All the story arcs close separately from each other and one does not depend on the other. It doesn’t come full circle. George dies but no one knows it, thus the family is robbed of justice and closure on that front. The family moves on knowing George did it and he may still be out there doing it to other kids. Susie moves on happy knowing the family has healed but with her final resting spot still a mystery to everyone but her and George. The ending is like a shoulder shrug. Ah, well. It doesn’t always end with a nice-neat bow.

Well, screw that. You’ve gone through the trouble of creating this world where a girl is brutally raped and murdered only to have her killer offed by a Deus Ex Machina? You’ve given none of your characters, not one, any sense of sacrifice or vindication or redemption or justice. You’ve fucking betrayed your audience.

Bad Afterlife Logic

When Susie dies, she goes to an afterlife place called “the in-between”, aka Limbo. She is there alone at first. Then meets another little girl. Then more. Come to find out, they are all victims of George.

What’s wrong with this picture?

You see, in the book, it’s referred to as Susie’s personal heaven.

Okay, if it’s personal how do other people get in there? People she’s never ever met. Ever. It isn’t like the end of LOST where all the characters meet up in Purgatory before moving on. After all, those characters had deep-rooted connections. They knew each other. It made sense (even if you hated it).

But here, not so much. Susie is dead and if she’s in a personal heaven, people she knows and loves should be there. Which means she’d be alone cuz everyone else is still alive.

That’s a small point. A larger one is the incredible selfish nature a personal heaven is. Oh, I get it. It’s godless. Only the individual matters so it can be whatever that person wants. Awesome. More selfishness from selfish Susie.

The biggest point, though, is that if all of George’s victims are in this personal heaven doesn’t that mean it’s not really their personal heaven. I mean, let’s look at this. If George has killed these girls and they end up in the same place and no one else is there, does that not mean they are in George’s personal heaven.? Which would be more like hell to them. Which would mean Susie and the girls would be more actively trying to get George caught and killed to free them from this hell.

Yeah, that’d be cool. We’d have the family trying to find the evidence and the victims trying to contact the family to tell them what’s what. There’d be tension while George starts to feel haunted by his victims (cuz they’re trying to off him. Maybe drive him crazy so he kills himself). He’d be questioning his sanity and constantly moving and hiding evidence. Maybe almost get caught a few times. It’d be like a real ghost story/suspense thriller. Then we’d actually have a reason for a character who senses ghosts. And for the ghost to figure out how to enter her. Then we’d have a resolution where George gets his and the family gets justice and Susie and others are vindicated and the audience doesn’t feel cheated or betrayed…

Oh, wait…that didn’t happen.