Restless Spirits

‘The Lovely Bones’ & ‘A Single Man’

“You took the best / Now take the rest,” the blues singer offers her lover in despair. But Peter Jackson, adapting Alice Sebold’s overrated but fairly touching bestseller The Lovely Bones, did just the opposite: he took the worst of the book and gave it cinematic shine, then merely skimmed the rest.

This tale of a murdered fourteen-year-old whose spirit hovers over her bereaved family and follows its fortunes over the next decade features a limbo compounded of maudlin dreaminess and descriptive banality, but from its vantage point the dead Susie, a truly omniscient narrator, relays some well-observed scenes of middle-class life in a small Pennsylvania town of the 1970s, all of it wasted on Peter Jackson. The director of Lord of the Rings knows what movies are meant to do when they’re fueled by a gazillion dollars and employ a special-effects staff that includes Joe Letteri, who worked with James Cameron on Avatar. This script either breezes through or eliminates ten years of mourning, family squabbles, detective work, courtships, adultery, a community’s rites of compassion, a classmate’s struggles to become a poet while being tormented by clairvoyance, and much, much else. This isn’t a case of the sort...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.