Marley & Me

I was vaguely interested in this book when I first learned about it. The book is the real story about a horribly untrained dog that causes all sorts of problems for his owners. At the time I was on a Cesar Milan/Dog Whisperer binge so I didn’t particularly want to read a book that seemed to glamorize a misbehaving dog. A movie was created based on the book, which I just rented via Netflix. I wasn’t expecting much, as it appeared to be a typical Hollywood comedy and I’m not a fan of Owen Wilson. Instead I found that I really enjoyed the film. It spoke to me on so many levels, none of which had anything to do with dog ownership.

This movie is less about the dog and more about a man growing up and getting older. The film manages to feel real. You know these characters and probably share some of their problems. I’m sure it really helped that the movie was based on real people and events, but it’s surprising that Hollywood didn’t go overboard trying to make this a typical comedy.

The main character is John Grogan, an aspiring reported who has just married a complete knockout and fellow writer, Jennifer. John lands a job at a local paper, but is given assignments writing about localnonissues rather than the big stories. He is jealous of his friend and coworker Sebastian, who seems to land all the good assignments. Sebastian is a perpetual bachelor with no ties to speak of. This allows him to travel frequently to cover stories. When Jennifer hints at wanting to start a family, Sebastian suggests to John that he buy her a dog to postpone her biological clock for a few years (this works by the way, I’ve done it myself). This is where Marley enters the picture. John continues to cover misc. news bites and is pushed into writing a part time column for the paper. Many of his columns include stories of Marley.

Eventually John and Jennifer decide to have children, which means more sacrifices for both of them. John becomes a a full time columnist so they can afford to buy a house in a safer neighborhood. He hates writing a column, despite the fact that he is very good at it, and still longs to be a reporter. Jennifer feels that she’s stretched too thin and decides to become a stay at home mother. When their second child arrives, the marriage is strained as Jennifer becomes increasingly frantic and hostile due to the constant crying and lack of sleep. I can certainly see myself in some of those scenes. However, they manage to weather the problems and the couple grows older.

Yes, this movie has a dog, but I would not consider it a dog movie. Not by a long shot. The main character is really John. The problems he faces, from his frustration that life isn’t quite what he expected, to keeping the peace when his wife is acting crazy, to making peace with growing older, are things most of us have to deal with at some point. It’s not often that you find this kind of truth or poignancy in your average movie. I highly recommend it for anyone.

Now I need to go read a copy of the book…

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