Film Reviews

 
 

The Lovely Bones

Director: Peter Jackson
Starring
: Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz
Release
Date: 29th January

Book to film adaptations really have to do well to impress fans of the original source. While it’s undoubtedly ridiculous to expect a perfect adaptation, it’s fine to go in with certain expectations. The Lovely Bones is based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Alice Sebold. The film tells the story of fourteen year old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), who is murdered by her reclusive neighbour and must watch her family from her afterlife as they attempt to cope with the consequences of her death.

Visually, The Lovely Bones is unparalleled. Susie’s afterlife is a variety of wonderfully constructed landscapes that perfectly encapsulate the fantasy of a teenage girl. Her memories of her death are also suitably constructed, causing discomfort and tension as the audience register the detail of her surroundings.

The actors give very credible performances. Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz play Susie’s parents wonderfully, despite the fact that their characters are never really allowed to let their grief fully develop. The film very much focuses on Susie and her experiences and does not really work as a study of grief. Jackson, as he does in The Lord of the Rings, places far too much emphasis on the main character and their journey, which ultimately damages the credibility of the supporting characters and their stories. Susan Sarandon embraces the role of the chain smoking glamorous granny with aplomb but full credit must go to Stanley Tucci, who plays Susie’s killer. He does not allow his character to become a simple cliché, but gives him complexity and humanity as well as making him a despicable and repugnant character.

Fans of the book and of Jackson’s earlier work may not find full satisfaction in The Lovely Bones, but it is still a solid film. It seems to do things very well, or very poorly, as is seen in its visuals and character development respectively. The Lovely Bones is unlikely to sweep the awards season, but is worth a look nonetheless.

In a nutshell: Well acted and pretty special effects, but has its flaws.

Bridget Fitzsimons

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The Boys are Back

Director: Scott Hicks
Cast
: Clive Owen, Laura Fraser, George MacKay
In Cinemas
: 22nd January

Before the review, a tip: Don’t see this film if you’re easily upset, hormonal or just a big sop, like me. If you must, bring tissues.

The Boys are Back tells the story of a journalist (Clive Owen) who struggles to cope with being a single father after the death of his second wife. While his younger son Artie gets on with life as a bubbly six-year-old, the arrival of Owen’s first son Harry on a visit causes upheaval. Owen is forced to deal with his lax parenting style and his grief over the loss of his wife, all while juggling two boys, a burgeoning relationship, and the pressures of his job.

Treading a very fine line between moving and maudlin, The Boys are Back narrowly avoids being sentimental mush. Owen’s hapless parenting is hard to watch at times – a kid riding on the bonnet of a car is not OK – but it’s his tense relationship with Harry that makes compelling viewing.

Emotive and visually beautiful, the story moves at a gentle pace – it’s one of those movies where nothing much happens on the surface; rather, the plot is in the development of the characters. The movie’s storyline is quite a heavy one (cancer, death, grief and abandonment are its main themes) but the gorgeous shots of the Australian countryside and the ocean makes for light viewing, and the simplicity of the film detracts from the complex emotions at play. The characters are likeable on the whole – Rupert Grint-alike George MacKay plays a blinder as older son Harry, managing to convey the inner turmoil of a little boy in a teenager’s body, wondering why his Daddy left him.

Overall, a fairly harrowing tale comes to a relatively happy ending. The Boys are Back certainly isn’t light-hearted entertainment, but it would make a great date movie, as it certainly brings the warm and fuzzies. Just don’t forget the tissues.

In a nutshell: Clive Owen made me cry.

Michelle McCormick

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It’s Complicated

Director: Nancy Meyers
Starring
: Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin
In cinemas
: Now

It’s complicated when you tune in to Episode 441 of Lost. It’s complicated when you try to explain the existence of God. It’s not complicated when you tell people that you’re having sex with your ex-wife.

The title of this seemingly ‘original’ granny-porn storyline can be imagined in a major Hollywood office: “So Nancy, what’s your new movie about?” asks some nobody. “Oh, I’d love to tell you, but it’s complicated,” comes the response.

As with any film, It’s Complicated follows a plot that can be constructed within a single paragraph: a divorced couple of ten years get back together and have sex. One is married and the other isn’t. They have college-bound children and don’t live happily ever after.

Simples.

Despite the name (which I will stop complaining about), the movie is quite endearing to audiences approaching; in; or coming out of marriages. Alec Baldwin is typecast, playing Jake with typical smarmy bravado – the type of character who could get rid of your father and marry your mother without a social stint in between.

Meanwhile Meryl Streep acts as a casual carefree character, stuck between the morality of being the “other woman” in the affair and what she actually is – a cuddly old menopausal mother who cooks nice food and occasionally laughs with her BFFs.

The film itself does hold some comedic value however. But this is only comparable to the style of Scrubs, where there is a mish-mash of emotive gravity and slapstick comedy, as portrayed by Steve Martin (his heart is crushed by Meryl Streep ‘cos girls only like Bad Boys), and John Krasinski, playing the elder-daughter’s fiancé Harley, as the upper-comedic value to the movie.

When Nancy Meyers brought us Steve Martin in The Holiday, we watched what was probably the ultimatum of her style as a director. While not as funny as said movie, this is still an interesting piece of, ehm, movie-thing?

Seriously though, you wouldn’t come out of the cinema saying that it was crap, or awful. It is what it is for now: a watchable movie to consume two or three hours of your time. In the future, I suspect that this will feature at least once a year at Christmas on RTÉ/BBC, and you will drop what you are doing to watch it, just for some infinite distraction.

In a nutshell: Low key granny-porn.

Colin SweetmaN

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