Unlike 30 Rock's Liz Lemon, who once lied about her taste in literature to impress an apartment co-op board, I have read Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. And that's exactly why I'm not looking forward to Peter Jackson's film adaptation of it.
No, it's not that I have anything against Peter Jackson. I think his Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of those rare examples of a film that not only lives up to, but exceeds the quality of its source material. He is a filmmaker of extraordinary vision. And I don't have any problems with (most of) the cast, either. Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, and Atonement's Saoirse Ronan are all extremely capable actors. If Jackson had assembled this cast for any other project, I would've been thrilled. But The Lovely Bones just seems inadaptable, even for Jackson.
Here, in no particular order, are the three reasons why I'm skeptical:
If only I could've been a fly on the wall in Jackson's office when he and Gosling were experiencing the "creative differences" that led Gosling to give up the role of Jack Salmon, a grieving father who can't find closure after the murder of his teenage daughter. (It couldn't have been the money, could it? Gosling must be used to not making any by now.) Wahlberg showed promise as an actor back in his Dirk Diggler days, but after years of straight-up tough guy roles, I just don't see him bringing the same levels of nuance and gravitas that I believe Gosling would have brought to the role. Wahlberg can handle Salmon's rage, but what about the more subtle aspects of his grief? I much would've preferred if Jackson had picked a more introspective actor like Christian Bale, Daniel Craig, or Adrien Brody.
2. The inevitable voice-over
The Lovely Bones is told from the point of view of poor little dead girl, Susie Salmon. Susie watches over her family and friends from heaven as they grieve her death, search for her killer, and eventually move on and grow up. But Susie is much more than just a narrator. In the book she is a fully fleshed-out character who experiences complex emotions as she watches her loved ones go about living the life she was robbed of. We care about the other characters because we see them through Susie's eyes. And the story's climactic scene will not work if we are not clued in to her emotions throughout the rest of the film. But how will Jackson manage to show us Susie's reactions? Sex and The City-style voice-over? Constant cutaways to get her reaction shots? A split screen? Susie's voice should be an integral part of the story, not a distraction from it.
3. What genre did you say this film was?
IMDb.com has The Lovely Bones listed as a drama/horror/thriller. Sure, there are a few scenes of brutality in the book, but anyone who has read it knows at its core it is a coming-of-age drama about a family. There is nothing about the book that says "horror" or "thriller" to me. I'm really hoping these genre tags are just incorrect speculation on the part of IMDb, and that Mr. Jackson is not focusing on the action sequences as an excuse to use his CGI talents. (Mr. Jackson, I'm begging you: please do not become the next George Lucas. Yes, you are a masterful technical wizard. But you are also a gifted storyteller. Please don't ignore that talent just to play with your fancy moviemaking toys.)
Care to agree or disagree? Are you looking forward to The Lovely Bones with joyful anticipation or anxious trepidation? And who do you prefer as an actor: Wahlberg or Gosling? Let me know in the comments section.