Monday, March 28, 2011

"Top of the Queue Review" - Hachi: A Dog's Tale

I'm a dog lover.  Though we never really had a dog when I was growing up, except for one that my sister had for a short time when I was about 12, I found myself drawn to wanting to own a dog in my late 20's.  Our first dog was a part of our family for almost 12 years, and our latest one has been with us for 6.  I find myself in conversations with other dog owners about our dog's behaviours and also am drawn to movies with dogs in them.  

So, Hachi: A Dog's Tale - not exactly the best name for a movie.   But it got good reviews so into the Netflix queue it went.   As it was getting to the top of the queue, and when I saw the title, which, come on, is just a pretty bad one, I questioned why I put it in there, as I couldn't quite remember why it got into the queue in the first place.  But once I saw the pic of the dog in the film's poster, I smiled at the site of it and decided to keep it where it was, and it arrived a couple of days later.

Now, those of you who aren't into movies about dogs or who don't cry when sad things happen in movies, you might as well stop reading now.  But for everyone else out there, go ahead and give this one a spin- it has some big names in the cast and a series of dog's that play the title character that will make you tear up.  The dog "cast" is simply amazing - after you watch the movie definitely check out the special feature about the making of the film that includes a lot of behind the scenes footage of the dogs that were used, how they got them to perform and how they made them to look older then they really were for the later parts of the film.

The story is actually based on a famous Japanese tale of a dog who would follow his owner to the train station every day the man went to work, and the dog would be there to greet him when he came off the train at night.  The man died, but the dog kept going back for YEARS until the dog died.   There is even a statue at the train station in Japan that honors the bond this dog had with it's owner.

So, knowing that you can guess where this story is going - but the way it is told and the way it plays out still has some surprises in store.

Richard Gere is the dog owner, Joan Allen is his wife and Jason Alexander is the station master at the train station.   The film is directed by Lasse Hallstrom, the Swedish director who also directed  Chocolat, Dear John, What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, My Life as a Dog and The Cider House Rules- a pretty good list of movies.

It really is all about unconditional love, which when you think about it is really the best love there is.  The film is touching, poignant and will make you think of ones you have loved and loved you- both humans and animals.  A deeply moving movie that I never thought would touch me the way it did.  

And- Broadway connection- Joan Allen won the 1988 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for Burn This.  Unfortunately by the time I got to NYC and saw Burn This, she had left the cast.  For Jason Alexander, however, we did see his Tony Award winning performance in Jerome Robbins' Broadway in 1989.  Richard Gere has been on Broadway in a few things, including having been a replacement in the original production of Grease, but he hasn't been in a show on Broadway since 1980, so a little before my Broadway going time.

Amazon link for the film on blu-ray - Hachi: A Dog's Tale [Blu-ray]

Amazon link for the film on dvd - Hachi: A Dog's Tale

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