“The Lovely Bones” features an adolescent lead protagonist, Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) who, despite her youth, will miss out on an earthbound coming-of-age experience. Instead, what we get is Scorpio, death and a grueling aftermath.
Based on Alice Sebold’s novel, the film obliterates hope of Susie’s return. Director Peter Jackson visually models the seduction that leads to her murder on ancient myth — Hades’s capture of Persephone while she picked flowers and her subsequent journey to hell.
As Susie walks through a cornfield, she’s approached by neighbor George Harvey (Stanley Tucci). He persuades her to check out his below-the-earth recreational room, whose candle-lit light and warmth are clearly visible through the wood slats. And so Susie goes underground with Pluto. For good.
In the myth, Persephone gets a new chance to reinhabit earth for part of the year. But despite having been spared the rape her character suffers in the book, all Susie gets here is a trip to a vividly colored way station between death and heaven.
More satisfying than the Scorpio overlay is the creepy Harvey’s planetary cast. He’s all Saturn and a likely Capricorn – organized, a meticulous builder, and endowed with a profound acuity of hearing. In one suspenseful scene we see him register the sound of pages turnin, akin to the robotic spiders in “The Minority Report.”
Saturn is all about boundaries, and Harvey’s encasement of Susie’s corpse belies those proclivities. When he escapes, he takes the free pass to leave the underworld of his own making that he denied his victim. But Saturn – which rules the passage of time, ice and is the king of karma – eventually doles out the justice the legal system could not.