I never read Alice Sebold’s novel “The Lovely Bones” about a
14-year-old girl in Pennsylvania who posthumously observes the progress of the
investigation into her rape/murder, but I was intrigued when Lynne Ramsay, the uncompromising Scottish
director of “Ratcatcher” and “Morvern Callar" signed up to adapt it.
Apparently she had signed on before the book was finished and
before the author had changed its initially dark tone into something more conventional
and sentimental, or at least before the published novel became a fabulously
successful best seller, but at some point Ramsay’s participation in the
project became moot. Stephen Spielberg’s DreamWorks muscled in and bought the
rights fromthe financially struggling Film Four Productions, squeezed out Ramsay (she was so
demoralized, according to one version of the story, that she wanted to quit
filmmaking; at any rate she hasn’t made a film since), and got Peter Jackson to
write the script and direct.
So, big deal, you say, and you’d be right, because a movie that
would originally would have cost less than a 30 second trailer for “King Kong”
was budgeted at $65 million. But I shouldn’t pooh pooh a production simply
because it cost big bucks. After all, before he got into the market of draining
all the magic and imagination out of one of one of my favorite fantasy epics
through overwrought special effects and lumbering, humorless literalism, Jackson made the quite
strange and original “Heavenly Creatures.” Could “Bones” be a return to that
If “New York”
magazine’s assessment of the screenplay is any indication, the answer is,
probably not. Not that “New York” is any
arbiter of taste, but from their description Jackson’s adaptation sounds, well, as if it
suffers from overwrought special effects and lumbering, humorless literalism.
No doubt Ramsay’s version might have sucked, too, but with Jackson’s budget she’d still have enough
money left over to make about a hundred “Morvern Callars” or even lure Roger
Clemens away from the Yankees.