Home > Movie Reviews, Theology > Movie Review: The Lovely Bones

Movie Review: The Lovely Bones

27 January 2010

At first, I wasn’t going to see it.  Then, Roger Ebert had an apoplectic fit over the movie,

“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..

and I just had to see what would induce well, anyone to have a fit over a Peter Jackson adaptation of a best-selling novel.  

Let’s see .. A young girl dies a horrible death, and she looks down from “Heaven” on how her family is coping with the loss.  That’s the gist of the movie.

And my gut feeling about the movie was right – The movie’s theology of Heaven and the Intermediate State are way off.  At best, it conflates the two.  Heaven is the place where Believers will go, in their resurrected bodies, to be with the Triune God, for all eternity.  In ‘Bones,’ the girl is sometimes sad, and God is nowhere to be found.  Not even providentially.

What’s hilarious is that towards the end, the girl temporarily reliquishes “heaven” so that she might enjoy a first-kiss with a young man who was almost her beau while she was alive  (Er.. don’t ask).

Now, think about that for a minute …  Is the Heaven preached about in the Bible, such that it pales in comparison with even a first-kiss?  Or even the first time husband and wife have intercourse? 


Not surprisingly, C.S. Lewis wrote about this very issue.  The first couple of times I read this excerpt, it embarrassed me.  Now, my bachelor days long gone, I find it amusing, and so true:

The letter and spirit of Scripture, and of all Christianity forbid us to suppose that life in the New Creation will be a sexual life; and this reduces our imagination to the withering alternative either of bodies which are hardly recognizable as human bodies at all or else of a perpetual fast. As regards the fast, I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure, should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer ‘No’, he might regard absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their carnal raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it. Hence where fulness awaits us we anticipate fasting. In denying that sexual life, as we now understand it, makes any part of the final beatitude, it is not of course necessary to suppose that the distinction of sexes will disappear. What is no longer needed for biological purposes may be expected to survive for splendour. Sexuality is the instrument both of virginity and of conjugal virtue; neither men nor women will be asked to throw away weapons they have used victoriously. It is the beaten and the fugitives who throw away their swords. The conquerors sheathe theirs and retain them. ‘Trans-sexual’** would be a better word than ‘sexless’ for the heavenly life.

Love it !  Hollywood misses again. 

But you know what?  I think The Lovely Bones worth seeing anyway.  At least it’s a great way for Christians to talk to Unbelievers about Heaven.

On a more positive note, I will say that it nails the grief thing.

– Elder

** Note:  By ‘Trans-sexual,’ Lewis is talking about beyond human sexuality altogether, not a pretend reversal of gender ala thousands of dollars and many major surguries.

Categories: Movie Reviews, Theology
  1. 27 January 2010 at 11:44 PM

    Your last line reminded me of how powerfully Alice Seebold’s book portrayed the devastation of the survivors.

    The agnosticism about heaven is not the Biblical vision but, as you say, it is an opportunity to share the vision.

    [WARNING: Spoilers follow, at least as far as the book. Haven’t yet seen the movie.]

    I think there were some portrayals of “grace” in the book – most powerfully when the grieving, out of control dad actually saves the life of another potential victim, but nobody knows it or even finds out later.

    There is justice – albeit not known to many of the characters in their earthly lives.

    So much makes sense only in afterlife – and in some ways that is profoundly consistent with the New Testament.

    The “first kiss” (which was a full on sexual encounter in the book) was problematic for me – it seemed very American. With all the human devastation in the story, the most important thing God/whatever has to do is give someone the orgasm they never had? Seemed kind of weak compared to some of the other stuff going on in the story, but then again it suggested the idea that in heaven, all can be repaired: “tears wiped away from their eyes.”

    Very, very well written book… but that will make it all the more difficult to honor on film. I’m hearing lots of buzz about Tucci doing an great job on the villain, but beyond that not much more.

  2. Elder Oyster
    28 January 2010 at 11:27 AM

    Hi Timothy,

    I admit – the book sounds kind of good, and I am tempted to revisit my old hobby (aka, reading).

    I also heard that Susie’s ‘kiss’ was more than a kiss, in the book version.

    I’m not sure how you would like the film, having read the book. You would probably be disappointed that elements of the story are missing (based on your description of the story). On the other hand, I think you’d be impressed with Jackson’s “eye.” He’s got a gift for that sort of thing, no doubt about it, and the movie has been graced with it.

    Even Roger Ebert had to credit Jackson with that. 😀

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