“The Lovely Bones” trailer gives us a glimpse of heaven

A movie about a 14-year-old girl who is brutally raped and murdered does not sound like prime popcorn fare. But when it is based on Alice Sebold‘s critically-acclaimed novel The Lovely Bones, directed by Lord of the Rings mastermind Peter Jackson and could potentially include a lesbian leading character, I’m ready to buy my ticket now. After keeping much of the production under wraps, the first full-length trailer has further upped my anticipation.

The film features a great cast, with Atonement star Saoirse Ronan as the murdered girl, Susie Salmon, who watches the aftermath of her murder from the afterlife. Joining her are Rachel Weisz and Mark Wahlberg as her parents, Susan Sarandon as her grandmother, Michael Imperioli as a detective and Stanley Tucci as her killer. The trailer, like the book, is pretty riveting. Unfortunately, it’s not embeddable now as it’s only available on Apple.com.

Jackson’s vision of Susie’s personal heaven, which plays a central role in the novel, is gorgeous. The brief glimpses we see feel dreamy yet isolated.

I’m sold on Sarandon as Susie’s sassy grandmother and Weisz in what appears to be an expanded role as her fed-up mother.

I’m less excited about Wahlberg, whose acting range to me has always seemed to be somewhere between smell-a-fart and just aggressive scowling. Ryan Gosling was originally cast as Susie’s father. Man, that would have been great. I bet he would have had better hair, too.

But the movie and the trailer rest on the slim shoulders of 15-year-old Irish actress Ronan. She earned an Oscar nomination for her intense work in 2007’s Atonement, as the little girl whose lie ruins the lives of those around her. She certainly has the eyes, clear blue and haunting, to pull off Susie.

What the trailer doesn’t reveal is if Susie’s friend Ruth (played by newcomer Carolyn Dando) will be shown in her later years as a lesbian, as she is in the book. (Warning: Spoilers from the book through the remainder of the post!) In the novel, Ruth is brushed by Susie’s spirit as it departs her body and develops a heightened sensitivity to spirits. She also befriends the boy Susie had a crush on before her death, Ray (Reece Ritchie).

Hmm, if the hat is any indication maybe she’ll be gay after all.

The book is a gripping read with the rare ability to be both intense and meditative. Narrated entirely by Susie, the story is reflective as she is forced to watch passively from above as her family struggles with her murder and her killer goes on with his life unabated. I was thoroughly engrossed until, well, until the very end. And then Sebold went all Ghost on the situation with a full-on spirit/body switcheroo.

Still, the story is told so overall and Jackson is such a skilled director, I only expect the best when it comes to the movie. And if nothing else, holy crap, how creepy does Stanley Tucci look? I have never considered him in any way menacing. Now he is the stuff of nightmares. Shiver.

So, what do you think? Does The Lovely Bones look like heaven?

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