An Unlovely Mess, 19 March 2011
Author: gary-444 from United Kingdom
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are occasions when you watch a film, understand its merit, but simply reflect that it doesn’t work for you. This is one such film. The book by Alice Sebold is much acclaimed, Director Peter Jackson is hugely experienced and vastly accomplished, as is executive producer Steven Spielberg, so what is it that doesn’t work?
The premise, of a murdered girl, Susie Salmon, played by Saorise Ronan, leading her parents, Jack and Abigail, to her killer from a spiritual nether world is an intriguing one. The cgi and staging of the girls scenes in spiritual limbo are fine, it’s the ones on terra firma that disappoint.
The planning and execution of the murder are understated which weaken the drama, there is no sense of horror about what has happened. Parents Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz convincingly portray grief stricken parents, but this in turn is undermined by an almost comic turn by Susan Sarandon as a grandmother Lyn.
Attention soon focuses on the real killer as Susie Salmon leads her family towards the clues, but for little obvious terrestrial reason. This is no Revenger’s Tragedy ,and by the end, I found myself simply willing the end, which when it did come, was pretty unsatisfactory. Prior to this, Susie’s father is beaten up by a teenage lad who has his romantic assignation with his girlfriend disturbed as Jack charges through the high crops in a field in a grief stricken frenzy reprising the actual voyeurism of the real killer. But so annoying has his role become that instead of sympathising with him for his injuries , the viewer is tempted to think he deserved it for being so irritating.
There is a gripping opening to the final act when Susie’s sister breaks into the killers house and steals a notebook containing vital evidence causing the perpetrator to flee. But the climax wholly ignores the police, and presumable family ,chase to catch up with him, to cut to a very strange, anti-climactic final scene.
Shorn of visceral action, and with much of the film set in Susies’ dream world, the reality sequences are simply not enough to carry the story over the line of credibility. Brian Eno’s score is excellent, but its surreal ambiance only further distances the viewer from emotionally connecting with the story. Ronan’s performance of Susie is anaemic, and bad guy George Harvey, played by Stanley Tucci, simply isn’t sinister enough to really generate much viewer ill will. Investigating officer Fenerman played by Michael Imperioli has a cruelly underwritten scene and the end result is a film that goes nowhere in particular. Massively over-hyped watch on no-pay TV or borrow someone’s DVD only.