'The Lovely Bones,' starring Irish teen star Saoirse Ronan, had its world premiere in London last week at a benefit hosted by Prince Charles. Saoirse, 15, met the English prince in a receiving line with her co-stars, among them Susan Sarandon, and director Peter Jackson, and she’s certainly learned how to work a red carpet, judging by the many photos of her posing in stilettos and a designer dress for the paps.
Saoirse was full of praise for old pro Sarandon, who plays her grandmother in the hotly anticipated release of the film based on the best-selling Alice Sebold novel about a family coping in the aftermath of the horrific rape/murder of its young daughter.
“She's very maternal on the set,” Saoirse said of Sarandon. “She did look after me. And she's a very open person so it was nice to be with someone like that. Just being around someone as experienced as that is great.”
Some early reviews of the film are trickling out, and while it was widely tipped pre-release to be a strong Oscar contender – with prior Academy Award nominee Saoirse especially standing out – some critics aren’t particularly enamored.
“The book was deeply moving but the film, in the hands of director Peter Jackson, he of the Oscar winning Lord of the Rings trilogy, is a somewhat leaden, stiff-jointed affair,” says a critic from Britain’s Daily Mail.
Speaking of Saoirse, the review continued, “It's not her fault the movie locks itself in that in-between world she inhabits. She proved in Atonement that she's a young actress of grace, but she hasn't been given a structure that's able to use her gifts.”
The Guardian of London was also unimpressed. "The screen version is so infuriatingly coy, and so desperate to preserve the modesty of its soulful victim, that it amounts to an ongoing clean-up operation,” said the critic.
“With reddish hair, brilliantly alive eyes and a seemingly irrepressible impulse for movement and activity, Ronan represents a heavenly creature indeed, a figure of surging, eager, anticipatory life cut off just as it is budding,” says the review in the influential Hollywood-based Variety.
But, the critic added, “Peter Jackson's infatuation with fancy visual effects mortally wounds 'The Lovely Bones.'"
Though Saoirse, Jackson and the rest of the cast of 'The Lovely Bones' are currently promoting the film’s release with appearances around the world – it opens here on December 11 and in Ireland at the end of January – the Irish star plans on taking some time off around Christmas to spend the holidays with her folks back home in Co. Carlow.