A couple of days ago a friend and I went to see Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lovely Bones. I had seen the reviews, or rather, had seen the Rotten Tomatoes rating; but I tend not to trust male film critics on the subject of movies about women. They usually get their wires crossed somewhere, much like poor Mr. Edelstein did over at New York magazine when he wrote his execrable review of Precious and then got angry when a “posse” (his term!) of feminists disagreed with him. Sad little man. At any rate, that is my best excuse, other than that I have always thought the book was interesting.
Jackson adapted the screenplay with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, one of whom I think is his wife, so I don’t want to get too essentialist. But I couldn’t help but wonder, as I watched the film, if this wasn’t a prime example of the way the framework of high fantasy epics like the Lord of the Rings are… unhelpful, from a feminist perspective.
See, Peter Jackson, if you’ll recall, in collaboration with one of those same women, once made a film called Heavenly Creatures. I greatly admire Heavenly Creatures, and not just because it was Kate Winslet’s film debut (!). I admire it because it is a movie about female friendship that focuses on the intoxication of it, and the terrible consequences that flow from that intoxication, without ever feeling like an indictment of female friendship itself. That’s hard for anyone to pull off. So Peter Jackson has, in my personal universe, a proven ability to make decent movies about women, and women’s experiences.
And The Lovely Bones, is a book about violence against women, whether it likes it or not. And, I’d say, a good one at that, though Alice Sebold has fallen out of vogue since its publication. (Her followup was a long time coming and it was terrible.) The subject matter is of course rather voyeuristic: the rape and murder of a young girl. But she has a knack for affecting scenes described with dispassion.