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In which the author wonders whether the 2008 Owen Wilson/Jennifer Aniston vehicle Marley & Me accurately reflects the fortunes of an ailing newspaper industry.
John Grogan has it made. A real-life newspaperman who left The South Florida Sun-Sentinel for Organic Gardening for a columnist position at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Grogan became famous for dog-centered columns that eventually became a book and a film in which he was portrayed by charming, post-suicidal, crooked-nose Gen X-ish icon, Owen Wilson.
But Grogan’s dream life was lived in the ’90s and early aughts—Marley & Me was published in 2005. Could Grogan have lived the film version of his dream life starting in, say, 2009?
I don’t think so. The film Marley & Me is, literally if not aesthetically, timeless. It has no dateline. Its characters seem to live around turn of the millennium, we suppose. Though Marley & Me documents about a decade in Grogan’s life, only Marley (the dog) and Grogan/Wilson’s children age. No one goes gray. No one gets fat. Grogan’s wife (Jennifer Aniston), the mother of three, remains as taut and tan as Rachel on Friends.
Grogan/Wilson doesn’t blog. Grogan/Wilson doesn’t use the Internet. Grogan/Wilson doesn’t contemplate taking a buyout or hesitate when purchasing an expensive home in Boca Raton (a community that’s no stranger to the housing crisis) or relocating to the Philadelphia suburbs (a city that’s no stranger to the economic downturn) to work for a newspaper that’s no stranger to financial woes.
This is why Marley & Me’s timelessness, though disconcerting, is crucial to the film’s success. If we are to believe the slight life lessons of this breezy dramedy, we must believe that they are happening now – no, not just now, but always. Throw the politics of the newspaper business into the mix, and the movie fails.