Magic of Marley

2009-03-20 00:00

W. C. Fields is reputed to have first uttered the immortal line: “Never work with animals or children”.

So, he probably would have been fairly miserable on the set of Marley & Me, the new film opening at CineCentre in Pietermaritzburg this weekend, as it boasts a large assortment of animals and kids.

“We had babies, puppies, children, adult dogs, old dogs — and we all had a ball,” Jennifer Aniston, who plays the role of Jenny Grogan in the movie, said of the shoot.

But if you think this is just a movie about a dog, think again. Based on John Grogan’s autobiographical book, Marley & Me, the film’s universal themes of marriage and family have clearly struck a chord with people.

It made $51 million when it opened in the United States over the Christmas weekend last year and has taken more than four million pounds in Britain since it opened there earlier this month.

Grogan says of his book: “Marley & Me is not a dog story. When I wrote it, I didn’t think of it as a dog book, and I still don’t. I saw it as a growth-of-a-family story, with the dog being a catalyst. It’s a comedy with a poignant side to it.”

Asked why he thought it had connected with people, he added: “People from all over the world wrote me letters about how the book mirrored their lives. [Those connections were] somewhat accidental; I just stumbled on that. But many people, of course, do fall in love, get married and build families, and that’s what Marley & Me is about.”

David Frankel, who directs Marley & Me, echoes the author’s sentiments: “The story is about the highs and lows of being young and in love and encountering the challenges of marriage. It also deals with the dreams that get sacrificed for the joys of children, and is about the challenges of balancing career and family.”

“Most of all,” adds Frankel, who also directed the blockbuster comedy The Devil Wears Prada, “it’s about life — the rollercoaster of life that we all experience.”

Asked what she thought the film was about, Aniston, who plays Jenny Grogan, said: “You think it’s a story about a mischievous dog — and it is — but it’s so much more than that. There’s something about the Grogans and about Marley that connects in a universal way.”

Co-star Owen Wilson, who plays author John Grogan, added: “It’s about the journey that Marley goes through with the Grogans. Marley reminds them how much fun life can be.”

In the film, John and Jenny Grogan leave Michigan for a new life in West Palm Beach, Florida, where they obtain jobs as journalists at competing local newspapers, buy their first home, and begin to make their way through the challenges of a new marriage, new careers and, possibly, the life-changing decision to start a family.

Unsure if he’s ready to raise children, John confesses his fears to his friend and fellow journalist Sebastian (Eric Dane, who plays Dr Mark “McSteamy” Sloan on Grey’s Anatomy), who advises him to get Jenny a puppy.

So, the Grogans adopt Marley, who grows into a 45-kilogram steamroller of unbridled energy that turns their home into a disaster area and sees them through the ups and downs of family life, through job and home changes, and most of all, through the myriad challenges of a growing family.

Frankel, who felt a strong kinship to Grogan’s story, said that one of the many things which made the production special for him was the on-screen chemistry between Wilson and Aniston.

“That kind of magic is the luck of the draw,” he added. “You put two brilliant movie stars together and they spark in a thrilling way.”

This magic was also apparent to the two stars. “Owen Wilson is just great,” says Aniston. “He’s so good at his job, so professional, and such a generous actor. We had a lot of fun playing off of each other, and he has some moments in the film that are just really special.”

Wilson, in turn, said he had much to admire in Aniston’s performance. “Her instincts were incredible,” says the actor. “She does the work in ways better than I ever imagined.”

seven pounds: starring will smith

THE drama Seven Pounds, which sees Academy Award nominee Will Smith reunite with the directors and producers of The Pursuit of Happyness, is the other new film opening in the city this weekend. Smith plays Ben Thomas, an Internal Revenue Services agent haunted by a car crash in which seven people died: six strangers and his fiancée Sarah Jenson (Robinne Lee). In search of redemption he embarks on an extraordinary journey which changes the lives of seven strangers forever. Directed by Gabriele Muccino, it also stars Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson and Barry Pepper. It can be seen at both NuMetro Cascades and SterKinekor in Scottsville.

movies: in pmb

Still at cinemas in Pietermaritz-

burg:

• CineCentre — The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Pink Panther 2, Confessions of a Shopaholic, He’s Just Not That Into You, New In Town, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Watchmen.

• NuMetro — Sunshine Barry and the Disco Worms, Role Models, Revolutionary Road, Mr Bones2, The Secret Life of Bees.

• SterKinekor — Pink Panther 2, Notorious, Role Models, The Secret Life of Bees, Yes Man and Mr Bones 2.

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