Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Lovely Bones

The Biblio Babble:
The Book: The Lovely Bones

The Author: Alice Sebold

The Dealio: Both the book and the movie start out exactly the same: 'My name is Susie the fish. I was murdered on December 3, 1973, when I was 14 years old'. Now, typically, this sort of statement, alone, is enough to wave me off of a story. But something about the writing compelled me to move forward. So, heart in mouth, I did. Here is the story (no spoilers, as you know, by page 2 who the perp was). Susie is a fairly ordinary 14 year old, just coming into her own in every way: her dad is indoctrinating her into the family hobby of building ships in bottles; she is coping, wonderfully, with an embarrassing brother, sister and, especially, grandmother. And, there is a new love interest in her life.
Then, one day, while she is walking home from school, taking a short cut, she encounters a neighbor. Unbeknownst to her, this foo' has been stalking her and has what we would call-if we lived in England- 'malice aforethought'. Long story short- he lures her, rapes her and then kills her. I must praise Sebold, who wrote this book, in part, as therapy for recovering from her own rape. Speaking strictly as a chicken of the highest order, I appreciate a writer who can get you to feel, to share her emotions, without putting your own through the mental wringer. Such is the case here. Instead of haring off into graphic description, Sebold, instead, allows us- her more timid readers- to use our imaginations. And I am equal to the challenge: I can so, so easily imagine the horror, the grief, the helplessness of this situation.
And then comes the additional element of Susie's family, who are equally divided: her dad and sister want to find the person who did this, and punish him. Her mom and brother- and grandie- want it to just be over, and for the family to return to normal. Whatever that is.
What I liked about this book- and what stayed with me for the longest time after I had read it- was the intricate facetting of the thing: part fantasy ( the 'Inbetween'), part mystery (who did it and would we ever see him brought to justice?) and part psychological study (why? and further more...why?). I found this extremely well-written, expertly paced and riveting throughout.

The Grading Session: 4.791 pengies out of 5. I feel duty-bound to subtract a few decimal points, due mostly to the huge spin-out to get to the end, where we could see a truly, remarkably just ending visit our villain. (Mini-spoiler: the perfect crime) Why? It is hardly necessary, (please see film review of same...following directly, in the same post). The movie arrived at the same point (although not identical, if you please) far more directly.

Lessons Learned: Man, this is so easy. Horrifyingly so: don't accept invitations from weird ol' dudes. No good can come of this.

The Cinema Babble:

The Film: Sha! The Lovely Bones

The Actors: Saoirse Ronin, Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Michael imperioli, Susan Sarandon, etc.

The Dealio: See above, as the story remains the same. Some details have been shortened, some have been removed, but this was a true and worthy adaptation of the story Sebold sank so much into bringing to our attention. This movie was very poorly graded by critics both local and national. Not sure why; perhaps much of this was due to the huge investment made by so many in all the characters, nuance , even in preserving the absolute purity of the book itself. Much ado ensued, upon viewing the trailer, that there was far too much emphasis on the Inbetween. I must disagree: I read the book and found that Sebold invested a great deal into depicting a wondrous place where souls, seeking the comfort and the balm of 'exactly what they wanted most' could actually get it. The visuals (hey! I recognise you, NZ, and salute Peej for being willing to go back to that well yet again, crafting something moving, poetic and visually scrumptious for us to chew upon, while we console ourselves about the horror of the crime which is central to the plot), were exceptional, although, at times, made me impatient to get back to the central plot. 'Round up the villagers with pitchforks and hammers! Get a rope, we are about to see justice done right...and right now! Sigh. OK, so it never really works out like that does it?

The Grading Session: 4.81 pengies out of 5. I subtracted a bit from the total for the lovingly lengthy linger on some aspects of the story, while we found ourselves screeching though others at the speed of sound. I am such an ingrate, never satisfied with simple truth and beauty. The soundtrack was okay. Only okay. I'm thinking more could have been done in this area. Question: were Deuter AND Anya out of town for this entire process of fashioning sound to accompany? But I nitpick: the final product was incredibly, wonderfully true to the source materials and well worth the investment of time.

Lessons Learned: Aside from the self-same lessons from the book? OK, how about this? Don't smoke in bed. Don't trust the creepy neighbor dude who seems to have no job and yet always has money to buy treats for kids and is always 'building a real fun adults allowed.' He is probably not Howard Hughes, and, besides, Howard Hughes was a bit of a loose cannon, don't you think? Would you have trusted him with your 12 year old? And lastly, don't break into aforementioned creepy dude's house to air quotes get the goods on him end air quotes. He is always watching and, sure as apples taste better than red, he will catch you in the act. I'm just sayin'.

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