Sunday, January 3, 2010


I'm still feeling little desire to watch anything unpleasant or too complicated. But I got this on DVD and after running out of all the other DVDs I've been sent by studios for this awards season voting, I decided if I was going to vote for any awards, I should see as much as I can and here this was.

I can say that Saoirse Ronan, the young actress who first impressed me in ATONEMENT, deserves an Oscar nomination for the lead role in this flick. And I'll be surprised if Stanley Tucci doesn't get nominated for his portrayal of "the banality of evil"—but...

The movie itself—based on the novel a lot of people recommended to me but I never read—is a failure to my mind. Maybe it's the brain surgery recovery that's influencing my perspective, but the attempt to marry the other worldly special effects that are supposed to represent some other dimension between life and death, or between death and some kind of everlasting after life, just didn't work for me.

They worked visually at times—in an almost Disney smash Yellow Submarine kind of way (I may have meant "slash" but I like what my post-op brain came up with there better)—but not as ballast to the deeply disturbing "realities" of this fictional story more-or-less based on too real if sensational stories we've read or heard about periodically since they became seemingly (but I suspect not statistically) more common since the missing-child-on-the-milk-carton era began in the 1970s.

But this flick felt so exploitative to me I wanted to turn it off and was glad when it was over. And so much besides the attempt to make the story palatable with the "'tween heaven and earth" special effects didn't work for me, like Mark Wahlberg as the supposedly loving father.

Who decided to cast him in the role of an accountant whose obsessive hobby is ships in a bottle? Wahlbeg has proven himself to be a more than competent actor in a lot of movies, but whether fairly or not the roles that work best for him are the tough street characters, whether heroes or villains, not confused bereft accountants.

It doesn't work, nor do many plot points that make no sense. Wahlberg's character transfers his obsessiveness to the hunt for the predator but he ignores the odd behaving single middle-aged man who lives across the street in this suburban neighborhood of young families and who happens to obsessively make little girl doll houses and little girl doll house furniture etc. and hasn't lived there that long, it turns out, and whose past any obsessive could easily research even before google to discover missing landladies etc.

There's a lot of that, including a devoted mother who abandons her living children to go live in the sun in California and work on a farm leaving these kids to deal with the grieving obsessive confused, maybe losing his mind father, and an over-the-top alcoholic nicotine fiend character played by Susan Sarandon who's supposed to be the maternal grandmother? Was the novel this bad? Or is it just the limitations of my brain-op recovery that make this all seem so ridiculously contrived to milk every element of this greeting card version of horror and despair?

Anyway, I hope Ronan gets some awards for her role, because without it I would have pulled an Elvis or a Jerry lee Lewis and shot the TV I was watching this on. If I owned a gun and if I wasn't quite aware that I could just turn it off. Which maybe I should have, but I was hoping that somehow the ending would justify all the inconsistencies and miscasting etc. I was being put through. It only made them worse.

1 comment:

Elisabeth said...

It's too late now Michael to read the book, first, but if your could turn back time, I too would recommend you read The Lovely Bones. It is 'lovely' and heart wrenching and beautifully written.

I cannot bring myself to see the film and now after this I'm glad to stay away. It's not your brain surgery I suspect that causes you to doubt the film. I did not think this book could readily translate into film, the topic too serious. A documentary maybe.

The author, Alice Sebold was raped, that's about all I know. I heard this at an academic conference from a woman who was doing research into 'rape narratives'.

The book, The Lovely Bones, is fictional but Sebold drew on her experience needless to say. She sublimated that experience and somehow made the unpalatable palatable.