johnlink ranks BAG OF BONES (2011)

Usually, I don’t get into the business of ranking television movies. For the most part, that is because I avoid television movies (HBO doesn’t count, in my opinion). But this is one of my all time favorite novels, one which I always thought would lend itself to a filmed adaptation. And when they got Pierce Brosnan to assume the role of widower Mike Noonan, I had mildly high expectations that this could be done very well.

I watched BAG OF BONES (2011) on12.30.11. It was my first viewing of the film.

Stephen King psychological horror stories are not easily filmed. An adapter has to make decisions about what will play well on screen on a limited budget, and what is better left on the page. With BAG OF BONES, the novel only has a handful of scenes which might walk this line.

Perhaps that is why the first three-quarters of this Mick Garris’ directed teleplay is well done, but the last act unravels. Those first couple of hours only have one scene which felt off to me, that being a scene where an octogenarian in a wheelchair and an only slightly younger skinny woman physically intimidate (and better) a middle aged man played by a former James Bond.

In the novel this works because the experience is so psychological, with Noonan constantly kicking himself for putting himself in a position to be bested. But on screen, with none of this allowed to be expressed in a short segment, it feels completely unrealistic. That, to me, has been a gripe regarding King adaptations forever. Very few, SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, STAND BY ME, APT PUPIL, and GREEN MILE (for example), make psychological King stories well.

The plot of BAG OF BONES finds a best-selling novelist (natch) whose wife suddenly dies. He learns that she was doing something secretive in their vacation home, so he returns to the place in order to investigate what she was  doing. Multiple ghosts intervene, a sadistic backstory is revealed, and Noonan comes to realize how screwy this small town is.

There are some changes from the novel which annoyed me, particularly the way his wife dies. The bus accident of the filmed version may have been more ‘exciting’, but it is much more cliched, and somehow less tragic, than the brain aneurysm she suffers in the novel. But I don’t want this to turn into a novel vs. film argument. It annoys me when people nitpick every detail of a novel and its filmed counterpart. Suffice it to say, that I prefer the book in the case of BAG OF BONES.

Most of the movie’s largest issues have to do with depicting violence or action. The ghosts are actually very well handled, very well realized. But the stone-throwing scene, the big reveal scene from the 1930s, a car explosion at the end; they all feel underdeveloped. Only a gunshot at an unexpected time manages to land with the impact that it should.

I did like the set design and the feel of the home Brosnan populated. The movie did have a remote and isolated feel. I also appreciated the Tidwell music. This movie would have gotten a negative bonus point for music because the score was so bad, except the Sara Tidwell stuff saves it.

The performances here were better than the writing. Brosnan is different than his usual tough guy self. Both Melissa George as Mattie and Anika Noni Rose as Sara Tidwell, are solid. The portrayal of Tidwell, particularly, is impressive in a short amount of time. That is, unfortunately, until the writing in  her last scene is so poor as to be nearly impossible for any actor to convincingly pull off.

The depictions of the villains in this, unfortunately, were well off the mark, Rather than appearing grounded, they came across as coming from THE TOMMYKNOCKERS or THE LANGOLIERS movie adaptations (if only in their cartoony feel). Rather than scary, they were relegated to being silly.

While this was not the train wreck that critics seemed to suggest, I walked away from BAG OF BONES slightly disappointed because the first couple of hours really showed such promise. I still hope this gets a big screen treatment someday from a proper writer and director. Until then, I’ll proabably just go  back to the book.

SCORES

FILM: 4; MOVIE: 6; ACTING: 6; WRITING: 4

4+6+6+4+0=20

FINAL SCORE: 5

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~ by johnlink00 on December 30, 2011.

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