Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Don't Cheat The Audience!
But then I heard reviews. And I decided to save my money and wait until THE LOVELY BONES came out on Netflix. Which I did. I saw it last night.
Now, I want to offer a disclaimer here. I have not read the book. So, I have nothing to compare with the movie. And this is not a movie review. When I see something in a movie that is the writer’s fault, I simply WANT to point it out to HELP all of you future Oscar winners out there.
I agree with critics and I’ll tell you why.
While I cannot say enough about Saoirse Ronan’s spectacular performance as Susie Salmon (like the fish), I can see why people turned up their noses at what could have been a great movie. And let it be known, I did like the movie. I didn’t like the ending.
I’ll tell you why.
For the entire movie, we see Susie’s killer plodding along. For the entire movie we see Susie’s family in shambles. Susie’s caught in the “in-between”. She watches her family. She’s close with her father. Her mother can’t stand the fact that her daughter was murdered and leaves for a bit. Their grandmother comes to help out. Susie’s murder was a horrific event that toppled this poor family. To make matters worse, no one ever found the body. Just a hat and a large amount of blood. I could think of nothing worse to happen.
There was an enormous set up throughout the movie.
Act 1 established Susie as a bright, sweet girl who had dreams and crushes like the rest of us. She was at odds with her mom about wearing knitted gifts and close with her father as was shown in the model boat scene. She’s a very trusting little girl and is lured into a bad situation.
Act 2. Enter Susie’s new world of the in between. Sometimes she’s happy, sometimes she’s sad, or angry. Meanwhile, the killer rolls a charm of a dollhouse in his hand. He took it from Susie’s bracelet. We see him fidget with it throughout the movie. He’s interested in Susie’s younger sister, Lindsey, now. While he is plotting her demise, Susie’s father, wracked with grief, attempts to find who murdered his daughter. It drives the mother to the breaking point, and she leaves. The grandmother comes to help with the family. Susie watches from the in between as Lindsey gets her first kiss. We see the heartbreak of all that has been lost. We really want this killer to suffer. What a bad man!
After awhile, Lindsey gets a feeling of who the killer is. The father develops a roll of Susie’s film and he remembers the strange neighbor who, ironically, paints his flowers red. The dad has a conversation with the killer. Susie watches and gives Dad a sign. Dad chases the killer into the killer’s home. The police speak to Dad and explain that no charges will be pressed. Guess what the killer has rolling around in his hand? Susie’s charm! We hate the killer even more. He’s mocking this poor father. He said that he was sorry for his loss! The nerve of that guy!
Let’s go to Act 3. Lindsey has had enough of this. She sneaks into the killer’s house, finds damning evidence, and barely escapes. HA! Take THAT Killer! Now he’s on the run! Or is he?
Susie watches him load up her body (which is stuffed into a safe) and heads to a sinkhole.
And here is when the movie loses EVERYONE.
The killer rolls the safe end on end. Susie possesses a girl who took her boyfriend after the murder. Instead of screaming, “HEY! There’s a body in that safe!!!!” What does she do? She gets her first kiss from the boyfriend. Granted, that was sweet. But Susie seems to be the type that hates to watch her family suffer. It seems that it would be out of character for her. Meanwhile, the killer rolls her body into the sinkhole and it’s consumed by water. No one will ever find her! So, we feel like that was stupid. Maybe we could have gotten over that every little girl wants a magical first kiss. Maybe. There’s room to wiggle. A LITTLE. VERY little.
So, the writer has lost some of the folks. Let’s move on and see why people were so upset with this movie, why they felt so cheated.
Police swarm the killer’s house. He’s obviously gone. The only closure the parents have is that the killer was a neighbor. No body to bury. No face to face with the killer. No mom screaming, “How could you?!?!” No justice.
Outside a diner, the killer, still fiddling with Susie’s charm, attempts offer a girl a ride home. An icicle falls, and he topples over a ledge.
The audience was completely cheated!!!
The set up was so great throughout the movie. We WANTED the killer to get caught; we WANTED to see the parents and family have closure. We WANTED to see Susie’s body returned to her parents. For Susie to have HER closure with her parents. And it’s not so much what we WANTED to see, it’s what we, the audience NEEDED to see. While there was a little voice over tying everything in together, it was a horrible ending to a beautiful film.
Why tease with a charm that won’t be used later in the film? If you, as a writer, do that, there has to be some sort of closure for that as well.
Now granted, this was based on a book. Perhaps the resolution in the book was better. They have more time to get things across in novels. This movie was apparently difficult to write for, since it had three, count ‘em THREE, screenwriters. You would think of the three, someone would understand what the audience wants to see. I know the book may have ended one way and the book is probably better, but it’s the screenwriter’s job to ADAPT the book.
So, if you have learned nothing from this rant, learn this: DO NOT EVER EVER EVER CHEAT THE AUDIENCE.
If they’ve put in the time to follow characters on a journey, don’t let them down.
And Saoirse Ronan: Should you ever read this. I became your fan watching this movie.