Last night Alberto and I went to the movies and watched, at 10PM on a Sunday night, Marley & Me, starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. Movies come out a little later here in France, and this one was just released two weeks ago.
I had some thoughts after the jump, but the long and short of it is that I was really surprised by this movie, more than I thought I would be. I thought it would be Beethoven with a Labrador instead of a St. Bernard, but it actually tried to be a somewhat deep movie. I mean, it was terrible, which I expected, but the fact that this movie promised nothing but still tried to deliver (not knocking movies that promise nothing and deliver nothing) some deep thoughts, well, there's something rather endearing about that. More on that after the jump.
Overall, though, it's a strange movie filled with Hollywood cliches about a family and their dog. Owen Wilson was as rigid and boring as usual, and Jennifer Aniston's performance was decent but not memorable. The supporting actors were far worse; I was laughing towards the end in each scene with the blond son because his lines were so melodramatic and he was just really, really bad at acting.
Spoiler alert if you follow this post after the jump.
In fact, someone in the row in front of us turned around and told Alberto and me to stop laughing, but there were directorial choices and dialogue that was so cliche, at times so slow, and always stilted, that it was ridiculous. Even when the dog was dying at the end I was crying (yeah, it got to me) and laughing at the same time because that little blond boy was clicking through the home videos and trying to be a stereotypically sensitive, reflexive, and nostalgic 40-something.
Anyway, I am a major dog-lover, and I grew up with a big, rambunctious dog about the same size as Marley. I know what it's like to love an unruly animal with no discipline who others don't understand. It got to me, but I was bothered more by the way the family interacted with the dog.
I understand the message of family that the movie was trying to send, and it completely depressed me. The family moves from urban Florida to the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania to avoid the crime in the neighborhood after a white, female neighbor gets stabbed in front of her house. I suppose it's a story that, in reality, is all to common: people get upset by the possible downside of living near others, so they cut off all contact with other human beings.
John (Owen Wilson) starts with friends and a social life, but by the time he moves to the country and has three kids, he has no social support network. Jennifer, by this point, has been so moved to the sidelines to make space for the maturing relationship between John and Marley that her social life becomes inconsequential - she's a mom, and that's that.
That one scene after the birthday party where John asks Jennifer where she got all those guests, which I think was meant to be a joke, is pretty telling. They've cloistered themselves off in a compound and gave up friends and social interaction for "safety" that the only people who support them emotionally are each other, their children, and a dog. Which definitely can't be healthy.
This is why I called the movie "bizarre" before the jump; it starts as a pretty standard movie about a young couple who buys an unruly dog without knowing what they're getting into, and ends up as the story of a clearly depressed man losing his only friend and an over-worked housewife who's given up on her dreams in life and substituted them with his (as shown in that scene with her reading his old columns), although the story seems to care much more about John's woes than Jennifer's. The kids will grow up in the same isolation, socially stunted, and probably follow in their parents' footsteps.
Do people really glorify this lifestyle?