Alice Sebolds book is not an easy read. In places disturbing and chilling but ultimately well worth the emotional investment.
Susie Salmon is brutally raped and murdered by her neighbour Mr Harvey (Tucci), this is no plot spoiler, as this is announced within seconds of the movie commencing.
This is not a who done it or even why did he do it, the book focuses on the victims ability to let go thus allowing her family to heal.
Director Peter Jackson, chooses to leave out much of the violent imagery present in the book and chooses to highlight the surreal and fantastical elements of the novel, whilst Susie resides in “Pre Heaven”.
The acting in the “real” segments is strong, although these are comprehensively and consistently undermined. Moving from a heartfelt scene of a family slowly disintegrating under the loss of a daughter and sister, to images of Susie tobogganing and generally having a whale of a time in a dayglo “pre heaven”.
Structurally and conceptually Peter Jackson has got this movie wrong, perhaps this remains one of those truly unfilmable novels. Despite advances in special effects and budget clearly spent realizing the fantastical sequences, one has to ask, very nice but why?
Tucci is excellent, taking a part that is a real risk, hopefully he will not feel let down by the movie as a whole. Wiesz & Ronan continue to impress with Wahlberg good but still perhaps not quite the measure of the other performers. Sarandon, of course, continues to show how easy the whole acting gig is, although I will not let her put out any chip fires in my house with a casual vase of water.
Whilst clearly we need to know what Susie is thinking and her interaction with her family is at the heart of the story, introducing her world almost as a themepark, drains the emotional core from what is a very adult story. It is rumoured that the screenplay was altered to appeal younger audiences who could identify with Susie, hence the lack of obvious violence. Again, maybe in retrospect, this was the wrong choice.
The period detail is good and as mentioned, Tucci represents a very chilling portrayal of evil, dressed in ordinary suburban clothes and a plain station wagon.
Audiences may feel cheated that vengeance is largely absent, which holds largely true to the book. The novel, whilst not directly autobiographical, does incorporate elements of the authors own disturbing experiences.
If the movie was fifteen minutes shorter with many surreal and dream elements removed, there is a good film in there somewhere. Clearly the vision seen for the movie was the wrong choice which is evidenced by the lack of box office and generally at best, divisive reviews.
An unusual call for a “Directors Edition” where the film is cut shorter than the original version.
A surprising misstep for Peter Jackson.
Difficult to recommend without extensive and judicious use of the Fast Forward button.