A blog about general entertainment, fashion, and movies. And some random stuff too.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Movie/Book Review: The Lovely Bones

In this last week, when school has been perpetually called off day after day for a grand total of 4 days in a row, I've made a discovery that many others have already made. I may have come late to the party, but at least I made it. On Wednesday morning I woke up at 7:30 am and made coffee and turned on the TV looking for something to occupy the beginning of my day. On one of the movie channels, the movie The Lovely Bones had just began, and since it had been on my list forever, but I hadn't gotten around to seriously watching it, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

Nearing the end of the film, I was brought to tears. The images on screen were beautiful, the story was tragic, and it awakened something in me that hasn't really stirred in a long time. I marched right across the street in the ice and snow to Hastings to buy the book. When I returned, I began reading, and here I sit almost 3 days later to the hour, having just finished it.

At first I wasn't sure I wanted to review this one. This one would be mine, just for me. My snow day book. But the more I thought about it and the more my friends asked what I thought, I decided that the only way to really understand how I felt about it would be to write it out. I was actually really thankful that I saw the movie before I read the book. Had it been reversed, I may have fallen in line with most people who saw the movie after and hated the movie. There were many things different in the film than in book, but having read it after, I can appreciate all those changes without feeling robbed or without having my expectations fall flat.

As I began the book, it seemed such a strange idea to have a dead girl narrate a story about her own death, her own life, and whatever went on after it was taken from her. I was so interested to see how Alice Sebold was going to bring this story all the way through to the end. Unlike the standard 1st person, 3rd person, 3rd person omniscient, this perspective fell in that category that was more like 1st person omniscient. We were seeing things from Suzie's perspective with her feelings and memories, but she could also see all things, even others' thoughts and feelings. Even what her murderer was up to and all his secrets. In this way, this may have been one of the most uniquely told stories I've ever read.

The writing was so beautiful. This book dealt with some issues that are not easy to deal with and yet she wrote about them with such ease. So eloquent and effortless. So of course, this made it that much easier to read. Especially for me, and English teacher and a wannabe-writer. She masters the craft of writing so well, I can only hope to ever write something half as beautiful one day.

The story itself is a tragedy that, somehow, Sebold is able to portray with hope and eventually joy. The book is hard to read sometimes because it is so heavy. A young girl is murdered. We spend nearly all our time with the people who loved her, grieving. However, in the end, Sebold is able to show that eventually time can help to heal. Pain like this may never go away, but it eventually can be bearable. Running away does not make things go away; you have to face them. And, she shows that sometimes, a tragedy destroys life but can also create and make a person who they are supposed to become if they can rise to it.

This story is not about catching the bad guy. It's about being hit with loss and learning to deal with and accept it. It's about learning to let go and the importance in being able to do so, and then to move on. And also, it's about having faith in something more than what we see. Whether it's in an emotion, heaven, a God, spirits, or faith in your own strength. Strength to not let yourself slip below the rip-tide brought on by unexpected events.

The accepting and moving on themes of this book are what hit me the hardest. I can say that these two things are hardest for me to deal with in my own life. Regardless of if it's a death or just a natural check-point of life showing that we all grow up and change from what we were, it's hard for me to accept it and move past it. I have clung to things in my past for much longer than I should. Most recently, it's been the camaraderie and closeness of me and all my cousins. I haven't wanted to accept that we all grow up, move on, get our own priorities and lives, and slowly slip away from each other. It's what naturally happens when we go from children to adults. However, I've been clinging to what I've always known and had with them, and tried to keep us there.

But accepting and moving on isn't a bad thing. It's a beautiful thing. And new chapters of our lives are beginning. It won't be what I've always known, but it will be something new and just as beautiful. This book pointed me to this issue inside myself. This one and many others. The fact that this can happen is fundamentally why I love literature. If a book can make you find something true in your life, then it has achieved what it exists to do.

With all of that being said, it's no surprise that I truly adored this book. And I love the movie for pushing me into reading this book. I warn anyone who loves the book and wants to see it adapted exactly, you will not enjoy the movie. You'll have to go in it with an open mind and heart, otherwise, you will be disappointed. BUT, although the book and movie are very different, they are both beautiful in their own ways. While Sebold's artistic utensil is her gorgeous metaphors and phrasing, Peter Jackson's is his visual effects and framing. Both achieve the same tone and emotion, just in different ways.

I said at the beginning of this entry that this would help me better understand how I feel about this book, and it has achieved just that. I hope that I can encourage anyone who hasn't read the book yet to give it a look, and perhaps if you haven't seen the movie you can give that a chance, too.


  1. I just bought this movie last weekend. I think I will watch it. I know what it's about and didn't want to be in a funk...but if it's THAT good.

  2. Please let me know what you think when you've seen it!

  3. "While Sebold's artistic utensil is her gorgeous metaphors and phrasing, Peter Jackson's is his visual effects and framing. Both achieve the same tone and emotion, just in different ways."

    This is what I've been trying to say for over a year now. It's incredible to me how much people hated this film. Is it weird in tone, structure, narrative, and unconventionally executed? Absolutely. Is it bad filmmaking? Hell no. I think a lot of folks couldn't let go of their own version of the book they imagined in their heads and wouldn't accept that this is Peter Jackson's personal vision of the book, not some universal interpretation of it. And I applaud him for that. It's ballsy, daring filmmaking at it's finest. It reminds me of There Will Be Blood and The Shining. Not similar in plot or tone to either film, of course, but all three films kind of take you aback and you have to kind of absorb it and think about it before truly nailing down how you feel about it. I saw the film 3 times in a theatre before I could really express how I felt, and to this day I will stand by the film and it's masterful execution. It's been years since I read the book, so I don't remember all the difference between the novel and the film, but I think the film itself is something worth thinking about, instead of what a lot of people did and trying to rush out a judgement of a film that was unfairly dismissed as failed awards season fodder, when it was never meant to be part of awards season to begin with. It's release date just implied so and thus people misinterpreted Jackson's intentions completely. I'm glad you wrote this out because it represents someone giving both the novel and the film a fair amount of time to really settle in and think about how they made you feel. Good write-up!

  4. I read the book years ago when it first came out. I just recently saw the movie and thought I was going to hate it. I really loved the movie and the way heaven/afterlife is portrayed. It was a new approach that I really appreciated. I totally agree with your comment about the book's moving theme of moving on and acceptance. That is what makes the story so unique- it is not just another catch-the-bad-guy movie.

  5. I'm extremely excited to read the book and watch the movie. It sounds amazing and very thought-provoking.

  6. I am so glad you both watched and read this story! When I saw that you were doing that this week it made me happy. I read the book a few years ago, and only recently watched the movie myself. I wanted to wait because I did not want the book to influence my view of the movie. I am so glad I did that. I was able to truly appreciate the film for what it was and the beauty of everything in it, rather than be disappointed because it did not match my interpretation of the book.

    Although, I am most excited just about you being moved enough to read the book since it is a favorite of mine and I always want to share these things with you. I would highly recommend her other books as well, though I think The Lovely Bones is my favorite.

  7. I liked the review very much. You are an excellent, smart, effective writer, traits that come across even if a person hasn't read the book or seen the movie you are discussing.