Ah where would the film industry be without Peter Jackson? Stuck in the Stone Age and using claymation and men in rubber suits, judging by most of the criticisms of this movie. I never read the book because usually when you do, the movie can’t live up to your expectations. And usually when you read the book after you’ve enjoyed the movie, you turn into a nit-picky purist. So I enjoyed this movie and decided that I wanted to keep enjoying it, so I haven’t read the book. Moving on...
Meet Susie Salmon, a lovely fourteen-year-old girl. She has hopes and hobbies like any normal teenager. She even has a potential boyfriend. But sadly for her, this is all thrown to the dogs when she is tragically murdered by one of her neighbours. But the story doesn’t stop there...we see Susie remain in the “in-between” as she watches her family cope with her death. Naturally they don’t take it that well since the father becomes obsessed with tracking down the killer, the mother has a bit of a nervous breakdown and they have to call in the grandmother for help. Meanwhile Susie gets caught up in her own little fantasy world as she watches time pass in her old life.
The film boasts an impressive cast, with our main star being Saoirse Ronan aka Briony from Atonement. Interestingly enough she was cast because Peter Jackson wanted an unknown but she was nominated for an Oscar for Atonement shortly afterward. As her name suggests she is indeed Irish but does a very good American accent, giving herself the proper voice to narrate the story. Dare I say we have a third candidate to replace Morgan Freeman? And this one can do accents. As her parents we have Mark Wahlberg who has come a long way from his Funky Bunch days, and Rachel Weisz who is also doing a good accent. Stanley Tucci delivers a great performance as Mr Harvey who is indeed Susie’s killer (not really a spoiler since you find this out about half an hour into the film) and any Power Rangers RPM fans will recognise Rose “Summer Lansdown” McIver as Lindsey, Susie’s younger sister. And last but not least Susan Sarandon plays Grandma Lynn. I didn’t know Stanley Tucci was nominated for an Oscar but it was a well deserved one anyway as he is almost unrecognisable as the creepy child molester. He appears to be a kindly older man on the outside, but then he changes immensely once he’s got Susie in his clutches. The scene where he has Susie underground in his trap is so creepy and almost uncomfortable to watch, knowing what’s coming and watching Susie slowly realise how much trouble she’s in.
On the other end of the spectrum Susan Sarandon adds the comic relief and is positively hilarious as the chain smoking out-of-touch-with-reality Grandma who drinks her medicine every day.
In comparison to the strong performances we also have some really impressive visuals, especially for the in-between. I honestly don’t know how Peter Jackson or Alice Sebold came up with them. I’m sensing a bit of influence from Salvador Dali and all his surreal paintings about the afterlife and such. One of the most impressive touches is the beach where gigantic versions of Susie’s father’s ship in a bottle collection smash themselves against the rocks. I also liked the touch of the gazebo that sort of acts as a viewing platform for Susie to watch her family from where she is. There are some truly stunning sequences that make the second act of the film seem almost like an exercise in elaborate and extravagant CGI – such as Susie and her friend Holly dancing in Victorian clothes on a giant green globe surrounded by hot-air balloons, or the two of them bob slaying through a snow field with gigantic ice sculptures.
I think Tim Burton felt he had some competition when making Alice in Wonderland. As for the design of the normal world, the colour scheme is a little gaudy and that gives the opening moments a creepy feel knowing that Susie is eventually going to be murdered. It makes sense when you think about it – she’s glamorising her life so of course it’s going to look a bit shinier and pretty than it actually was. I think the fact that the film is set in the 70s probably adds to that as well.
I have a ton of favourite scenes in this film so it’s pretty hard to just name a few, but the first one is a small spoiler so you have been warned. Near the end of the film Susie enters the body of another girl and has the first kiss she always wanted with the boy she liked. Bonus points for the heart warming line “you are beautiful, Susie Salmon” which was also the last thing he said to her when she was alive. There’s a hilarious sequence when Grandma Lynn arrives and we see her trying to take control in the house. It involves overflowing washing machines, fires on the stove and sweeping dirt under the rug. There’s also a really powerful scene where Susie lists all of Mr Harvey’s past victims. The film takes a departure from its gaudy colour scheme to deliver a very powerful sequence to watch. Probably the scariest scene would be where after Susie has been murdered, she enters Mr Harvey’s bathroom and sees the blood and the dirt and screams as she fades away. Truly chilling.
So I officially pass thirty days in this challenge and I think I’ve covered a wide range of genres so far. I haven’t seen Atonement but I’ve seen a couple of Saoirse’s other films, and I believe this is one of her best roles. The cast all did pretty fine jobs and gave me an enjoyable film experience. Thankfully it avoided the main problems adaptations of books always seem to make such as compressing everything into 90 minutes or not giving enough character development.
My name is Bobby, like the dance move. I was 19 years old when I started this blog. I wish you a long and happy read. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.