Why Ebert Really Hates “The Lovely Bones”

Roger Ebert really hates The Lovely Bones. Like really hates it. Like the way that Ann Coulter hates Democrats. And Liberals. And Women in general. Just look at his review in the Chicago Sun-Times:

“The Lovely Bones” is a deplorable film with this message: If you’re a 14-year-old girl who has been brutally raped and murdered by a serial killer, you have a lot to look forward to. You can get together in heaven with the other teenage victims of the same killer, and gaze down in benevolence upon your family members as they mourn you and realize what a wonderful person you were. Sure, you miss your friends, but your fellow fatalities come dancing to greet you in a meadow of wildflowers, and how cool is that?

The makers of this film seem to have given slight thought to the psychology of teenage girls, less to the possibility that there is no heaven, and none at all to the likelihood that if there is one, it will not resemble a happy gathering of new Facebook friends. In its version of the events, the serial killer can almost be seen as a hero for liberating these girls from the tiresome ordeal of growing up and dispatching them directly to the Elysian Fields. The film’s primary effect was to make me squirmy.

Wow. Listen, Roger. I’m an agnostic, and I know that sort of pushes me to be non-committal about theology, but why does anyone get to decide that anyone’s idea of Heaven is invalid? After all, if we left the discussion of Heaven to logic, David Byrne would be right. Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens. That means no His Dark Materials or Angels in America. I don’t want to live in that world sorry.

Not to mention the fact that we never actually see a real “Heaven” in The Lovely Bones. All the digital magic is a manifestation of Susie’s “perfect world,” her perception of the limbo she exists in. (More on manifestations later.)

On the notion of feeling “squirmy,” it’s interesting to compare Ebert’s reaction to Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, the film that has polarized critics with its depiction of genital mutilation, negligence resulting in the death of a child, and various other forms of psychological and physical torment. He describes the emotional depth of the film, and the visceralness of his initial reaction to it. He then proceeds to examine Antichrist‘s symbolism in a very perceptive and admirable piece of writing that is probably the fairest bit of coverage von Trier has received. Why give von Trier the benefit of the doubt after he squirmed, but not Jackson? Continue reading