Friday, May 04, 2007

The Lovely Bones Script Preview

Listen, the last thing I'd want to do is upset Peter Jackson or anybody at Wingnut films so this is going to be a particularly cautious script preview, ensuring nothing slips out that shouldn't. It will also be particularly short - my We3 review has run to 2 parts with a 3rd to come, American Gangster is going to be in 2 parts, Death Proof was 3 parts... this is going to be just a short preview with a slightly more substantial, heavily opinion based review to come. If you have any questions, however, I will do my best to answer them in the comments section below. And no, I don't have a copy of the script now - and, technically, I never actually had one, was just given a look.

The script cover sheet shows a March draft date. Fran Walsh is credit first, comma Philippa then ampersand Peter. Below this, based on the novel by Alice Sebold. I offer this to kill any claims I'm faking here. 113 pages including cover. The film ends with a Steely Dan number [EDIT: I meant begins. It ends with Van Morrison]. I hope that's enough 'proof' for you. And, if you're anything like me, you'll be quite pleased to have a bit of Steely Dan to look forward to.

I don't want to go into the plot, either, because the book is so well known I'm probably wasting time to do so. Suffice to say, the loose premise is that The Lovely Bones is a story narrated by youn Susie Salmon from heaven. She observes her family and the ordeals they go through after she has been viciously murdered. That's the basic set-up.

Susie is given a voice over right off of the bat. This continues throughout, and even concludes the film. In fact, the last line of VO is a really dinger - completely relating the impact of the novel, if not ramping it up just a notch. I felt like I'd just been pushed hard from behind, by surprise.

Because the script is full of ANGLE ON:, WIDE ON: and IMAGE OF: -type camera directions, Jackson's visual approach is even more clear than in a typically stripped down script. Some quite inventive bits and pieces of visual trickery are included too, as you might expect. The obvious comparison is going to be Heavenly Creatures, but this film seems that it will require a much more digital approach, and not only for the realisation of Susie's heaven - there's a lot more very visual storytelling, such an early section that blends from a literal image to a diagram. Alongside the voice over, these visual demonstrations lend the film just a vague, subtle air of an illustrated lecture - but not in any way cold, a passionate, emotional one.

One sequence in which the newly murdered Susie doesn't yet realise she has died and runs home- or at least thinks she does - to the safety of home reads as particularly nightmarish. (There's vaguely similar stuff towards the end of The Dark, but that's not the point - this was a high point in the script, well designed and clearly very distressing). Another very vivid sequence involved the final appearance of Mr. Harvey, Susie's murderer. In just a few lines of script the whole situation turns around rapidly a few times, and I expect that viewers won't be able to predict just what is coming next. And Jackson will be executing these shifts almost entirely with visuals - there's only two lines of dialogue that have any meaning to the shifts in the scene.

Overall, I think this was a wonderful script, though I'm worried that it might play as a little tricksy fir a flash here and there. That won't upset most Jackson fans, however - in fact, they'll probably find it all rather gratifying.

Let me ruminate on this one a while, then I'll give you a full-on opinion piece. For now, however, rest assured: the Lovely Bones script is really rather wonderful.


Mark H Wilkinson said...

For now, however, rest assured: the Lovely Bones script is really rather wonderful.

Thank you. I might otherwise not have slept without these words of comfort.

Brendon said...

Well, either you want to read the review or you don't. If you do, which you appear to have done, then you're interested in it, in some way.

And that means you want to know my take on it, I would assume. And for fans of the book, and of Jackson, there was some concern about this one.

But I wanted to do my part in dispelling that concern. However modest.

'Rest assured' is a popular, almost transparent turn of phrase and I don't think you really need to take issue with it.