STARRING Kevin Kline, Diane Keaton, Beth Grant, Richard Jenkins, Dianne Wiest, Sam Shepard, Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss DIRECTED BY Lawrence Kasdan SCREENPLAY Lawrence and Meg Kasdan MPAA RATING Rated PG-13 RUNNING TIME 103 Mins. DISTRIBUTED BY Sony Classics DVD EXTRAS Extras include commentary with Lawrence Kasdan, Meg Kasdan and Kevin Kline, and 4 featurettes ("Darling Companion: Behind the Scenes", "Finding Freeway: Dog People", "On the Red Carpet: New York Premiere", "Behind the Scenes: Lawrence Kasdan").
The latest film from Lawrence Kasdan (Grand Canyon, The Big Chill) is easily one of his least satisfying cinematic endeavors, a film that attempts to, or so it seems, paint a portrait of life post-children and post-meaning in much the same way that Kasdan painted such portraits in his earlier films. Unfortunately, Darling Companion mostly comes off as a pretentious film about the white, suburban rich folks. You know the ones?
Yeah, these days we call them the 1%.
Joseph (Kevin Kline) is a back surgeon, successful and studious and, oh yeah, for the most part emotionally unavailable to his silently suffering wife Beth (Diane Keaton). The film opens with Beth and their daughter, Grace (Elisabeth Moss), rescuing a dog on the side of the road in picturesque Colorado and promptly taking him to a vet (Jay Ali) who ends up being quite handsome. The dog survives and ends up filling Beth's emotional void, while Grace ends up marrying the vet a year later. Beth, Joseph and Freeway are enjoying some time away immediately following Beth's wedding at the home of Joseph's sister (Dianne Wiest), her new boyfriend (Richard Jenkins) and her son (Mark Duplass). There's also a caretaker for the home (Ayelet Zurer), whom we will eventually discover has psychic abilities.
Admit it. You've already giggled.
The problem is that you're not supposed to giggle. Darling Companion isn't a comedy and it isn't played for laughs. It's during this post-wedding getaway that Joseph takes Freeway, I nearly forgot to tell you that's the dog's name, for a walk when the dog takes off after a deer and disappears.
Call in the psychic.
Call in the sheriff (Sam Shepard).
Call in. Well, you get the idea.
Essentially, Darling Companion is Lassie for the 1%.
The rest of the film, which takes place over the course of three days, is about the all out search for Freeway. It's a search that involves the aforementioned psychic, an ankle injury, a kidney stone, getting lost in the words and lots of uppity and faux authentic conversations made more convincing thanks to the fact that this is a darn fine cast in a darn lame film.
It's sad to watch such a gifted cast have to flounder with such disappointing material, material made even more disappointed by the fact that we know Lawrence and his wife Meg are capable of so much more. While his performance here reminds us all just how good he can be, it's disappointing that one of Kevin Kline's best opportunities as of late is so completely wasted. The same is true for Keaton, Jenkins and Wiest. Elisabeth Moss is mostly wasted here, while Mark Duplass is able to give glimpses that affirm his growing indie cred.
But, the simple truth is there's not much reason to see a film that is largely devoid of heart and completely devoid of the humor it so richly deserves. It's difficult to imagine people clamoring to watch a film about a woman who loves her dog more than her husband and the husband who begins to realize it, and the film's expected yet emotionally vacant ending feels manufactured and lacking in authenticity.
Darling Companion is currently on the arthouse circuit with distributor Sony Classics and, in all likelihood, should experience modest box-office success with its appealing cast who do manage to elevate the otherwise lifeless material. That said, this is a film likely to leave theaters quickly before finding its more rightful place on the home video market.