Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
USA/United Kingdom/New Zealand, 2009. DreamWorks, Film4, WingNut Films, New Zealand Large Budget Screen Production Grant. Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, based on the novel by Alice Sebold. Cinematography by Andrew Lesnie. Produced by Carolynne Cunningham, Peter Jackson, Aimee Peyronnet, Fran Walsh. Music by Brian Eno. Production Design by Naomi Shohan. Costume Design by Nancy Steiner. Film Editing by Jabez Olssen. Academy Awards 2009. Golden Globe Awards 2009. Las Vegas Film Critics Awards 2009. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2009. Washington Film Critics Awards 2009.
A twelve year-old girl (Saoirse Ronan) is raped and murdered by the neighbourhood weirdo (Stanley Tucci) and finds herself wandering in the “in-between”, a computer graphically designed afterlife that isn’t quite heaven but resembles a female deodorant commercial. She hasn’t progressed fully into Paradise because she still has unresolved issues with her family to deal with, namely helping them to get past their grief and not live completely submerged in their misery, while also making sure her killer gets what’s coming to him. At least that’s the premise of the film: for the most part Ronan just watches her father (Mark Wahlberg) and mother (Rachel Weisz) get driven apart while she frolics through golden meadows with other victims of Tucci’s evil, all of them screaming happily about how free and released they are from earth’s bonds. Is this movie telling us that raping and murdering little girls is beneficial activity? It’s hard to know, for Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Alice Sebold’s runaway hit novel is uneven, awkward and dull, punctuated happily by a zesty performance by Susan Sarandon as Ronan’s unsentimental grandmother and Tucci as the villain. One central sequence, where Ronan’s sister takes it upon herself to go after some hard evidence on her own, is a genuine nail biter, but the rest of it is maudlin dramatics weighed down by the heroine’s insipid narration and mawkish graphics that have more in common with the silliness of What Dreams May Come than anything Jackson has ever done.