[Review] – Darling Companion

7 May

Title: Darling Companion
Year: 2012
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Writers: Lawrence Kasdan and Meg Kasdan
Starring: Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Elisabeth Moss, Dianne Wiest, Sam Shepard, Richard Jenkins, Mark Duplass, Ayelet Zurer
MPAA Rating: PG-13, some sexual content including references, and language
Runtime: 103 min
IMDb Rating: 4.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 16%
Metacritic: 39

When I saw Think Like a Man on Friday, I found myself thinking that that film was just far better than it should have otherwise been because of how good its cast was. Now I’ve just see Darling Companion and I found myself thinking the exact same thing, every single cast member in this cast is someone who I really like, some of them I downright love, and yet here they are, in a film that were it not for their talents I would no doubt find myself branding with a failing grade. It just bums one out to see such a hugely talented ensemble being gathered to make a such a stale kind of movie. But then again, this one’s such a forgettable movie that it won’t be long before we can’t even remember we saw such a great bunch waste their talents.

Think about it; this is a film directed Lawrence Kasdan and starring Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Dianne Wiest, Richard Jenkins and other pretty great actors. You’d think this would be a good movie, or at the very least a decent one, and instead we get this utterly forgettable and lifeless affair. Ugh. It sucks because these actors are still very competent even with such crappy material, and Ms. Keaton and Mr. Kline do their best at bringing some life into Beth and Joseph, a married couple; she’s super warm-hearted and yet is feeling really lonely because her husband, a back surgeon, is just this serious and uptight sort of repressed man.

It’s truly flabbergasting that this film was written and directed by the same guy that directed Body Heat and The Big Chill and that wrote Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark. Those films, especially those last two, are just truly iconic cinematic gems, films that as soon as you hear their name a particular scene or moment or piece of music comes to mind; Darling Companion, on the other hand, seems to be the exact opposite of that for some reason. It’s the sort of film that you’ll have to think for a while to remember what it was when people ask you about just a few months from now, the kind of film that is just too mild-mannered for it to make any kind of impact, the kind of film in which the stakes are just too low for you to really care about what happens in it.

The stakes, if you’re wondering about what they are, happen to revolve around a dog. And I know doggies are cute, so anything bad happening to them immediately makes you care and thus ups the stakes higher because no one wants an adorable animal in danger, but that’s not really the case in here. The dog, by the way, is found one day by Beth and her daughter Grace, played by Elisabeth Moss who’s awesome, abandoned at the side of the road. Beth claims that she’s not really a dog person, and Joseph objects about adopting the dog, but Beth goes on and takes him to the veterinarian anyway.

Appropriately enough, the dog is named Freeway, and it just so happens that a year later Grace and the veterinarian who patched up Freeway are getting married and going on their honeymoon. Then Beth, who had become happy again because of having Freeway in her life, decides to organize a retreat to her mountain cabin. Both Beth and Joseph are going, along with Joseph’s sister, her boyfriend and her son, and also the cabin’s housekeeper will be there, who happens to be a gypsy. And then Joseph one day takes Freeway out for a walk and they spot a deer, which prompts Freeway to bolt off in pursuit of it, never to return again (or maybe he will, right at the end of the movie). So Joseph once again screwed up Beth’s happiness.

So the film then becomes all about the search for a lost dog. Though Mr. Kasdan uses that to say quite a bit about the different relationships in play in the cabin. The son of Joseph’s sister, Bryan played by Mark Duplass, obviously will hook up with the gypsy played by Ayelet Zurer so that’s three couples to analize. Beth and Joseph try to patch up the things that had made their solid marriage become a bit less happy than it had been in the past. And Richard Jenkins’ Russell, the boyfriend of Joseph’s sister, Penny played by Dianne Wiest, tries to make Bryan realize that he’s a good guy who really does love his mother. And there’s also Sam Shepard as the sheriff.

They search for Freeway relentlessly, and a lot of stuff happens while they do so, including one animated bit, but it’s just not really all that great. I never once found myself caring about whether they found the damn dog or not, and I didn’t care about what ended up being the case with these couples. And that’s sad, because these actors are amazing, and they have great chemistry with one another and they all do their very best to elevate this material and make it something watchable, but the bummer is that they just can’t make it something decent because that potential’s just not in the material. I just wish these same actors could get together for another film that’s more worth our while. Damn it, Freeway.

Grade: C

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